Spice – Nutmeg #cooking

A long time ago in a lifestyle far, far away (pre-kids in other words) we went to Jamaica. We were there to help out with some relief work. Even though we were there to work, we enjoyed getting to know the locals too. We made friends and really enjoy our time getting to know a lot about them and their customs.

One of the things that really stood out to me was just how resourceful each of them were.

While we worked, many of them were generous enough to cook for us. Every day they prepared a new and unique dish. It was fascinating to see just how resourceful and caring they were. For instance, one day we had a Curried Goat. It was the first time I had ever had any type of curry dish, or goat for that matter. I enjoyed it, others not so much, but the care and effort put into it made it an enjoyable meal. Of course, there were left overs after butchering the goat. The next day they used those left overs to make an interesting soup called Mannish Water.

Their resourcefulness didn’t stop there. At the time I wasn’t really all that interested in the culinary arts but still I found it fascinating just how many of these people knew how to use what grew around them.

Nutmeg closeup by Lee Coursey Licensed under CC BY 2.0

On one day this one sweet young girl was showing me a tree with a yellowish pear like fruit hanging from it. She asked me if I knew what it was. Of course I didn’t. She told me it was a nutmeg. I was surprised to see how easily she was able to split the fruit apart with just her hands. What I didn’t realize at the time was that as this fruit ripens it splits apart on its own. Inside was an interesting oval seed with an odd red-orange mesh surrounding it.

She told me that every part of the fruit is useful. The flesh of the fruit can be eaten. When harvested, the mesh surrounding the seed (I now know to be called an aril) is removed and either cut into strips or ground and sold as a spice we know as mace. Naturally even the seed itself is used. The kernel of the seed is what we know as nutmeg.

Nutmeg and Mace naturally have similar culinary qualities. Nutmeg is the slightly sweeter of the two. Mace has a more delicate flavor and usually used in lighter dishes and imparts a bright orange hue similar to saffron.


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