Country of Origin: Indonesia
Nutmeg is the seed of the fruit of an evergreen tree called Myristica fragrans, which is native to Indonesia. Today it is also cultivated in Malaysia, in the Caribbean and in the southwest coast of India.
Myristica fragrans produces two spices, nutmeg and mace. The fruits of the nutmeg tree are harvested when they are ripe. The fruits resemble apricots and they contain a seed under their flesh. The flesh is peeled off and removed to unveil the seed. The seed is covered by a leathery orange aril which is removed and then processed in order to produce the spice called ''mace''. After the aril is removed the seed is left to dry in its dark brown outer shell. When dried, the seed shrinks and rattles in its hard shell. The shell is then cracked open to reveal the light brown oval seed, the nutmeg.
Ground nutmeg has an earthy tone with warm and sweet aromas that remind the aroma of cloves and pine trees. It is an essential ingredient for various spice mixes around the world such as Iranian or Syrian baharat, Moroccan ras el hanout ad British baking spice mix. Nutmeg is also found in different Christmas spice mixes used for baking, but also for Christmas and winter beverages such as eggnog and mulled wine. Ground nutmeg can be added in spice blends for chai masalas along with cloves, star anise, cinnamon, cardamom and ginger. Nutmeg can be used in slow-cooked recipes of meat such as lamb stew and beef stew. A small pinch of freshly ground nutmeg can uplift creamy sauces and cheesy sauces, in soufflé recipes with pasta or vegetables. Nutmeg is also perfect for mashed potatoes, cauliflower purée and vegetable velouté soups. In Greece a hint of nutmeg is used to season the creamy bechamel sauce which is the top delicious layer of ''pastitsio'' and ''mousaka''. Ground nutmeg is also used in sweet recipes such as fruit pies and fruit cakes, fruit puddings and pumpkin dessert recipes.
Nutmeg is best bought as a whole seed and grated when needed. When bought ground it should be kept in airtight containers in order to preserve its aroma and taste.