Nutmeg – Two Spices In One
Nutmeg is a member of the family Myristicaceae also known as the nutmeg family, and along with its outer covering mace these are the only two members of this family. The actual nut itself is the large brownish gray kernel that grows inside of the apricot like fruit of the tropical tree Myristica fragrans.
The spice originated in the Moluccas also known as the Spice Islands.
The Portuguese brought back the spice from India in the 16th century. In the 17th century the Dutch monopolized the spice trade for this spice along with cloves. In the 18th century the trees were smuggled out of the Banda Islands by the French thus ending the monopoly.
The whole kernel when stored for too long a time tends to dry out and to be attacked by insets that leave drill holes in the kernel; therefore, it is important to look for fresh kernels of good quality. The good quality kernels are loaded with oil and will be hard and heavy with no drill holes representing the presence of insects. The ground spice quickly loses its potency and should only be purchased in small quantities.
The spice has a sweet taste that should be used in moderation. The spice is used extensively in sweet concoctions and also complements vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, and squash.
For additional information about nutmeg click on the link to Wikipedia.org
For some great sections on herbs and spices some great references are:
• The Spice and Herb Bible – Second Edition by Ian Hemphill with recipes by Kate Hemphill
• The Food Encyclopedia by Jacques L. Rolland and Carol Sherman with other contributors
• Field Guide to Herbs & Spices by Aliza Green
• The Contemporary Encyclopedia of Herbs & Spices – Seasonings For The Global Kitchen by Tony Hill
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