Nutmeg - Herbs And Spices Lexicon

Table of contents:

Nutmeg - Herbs And Spices Lexicon
Nutmeg - Herbs And Spices Lexicon
Video: Nutmeg - Herbs And Spices Lexicon
Video: Herbs and Spices for Kids in English to Learn 2023, February


Nutmeg “nut” and nutmeg “blossom” or mace come from the nutmeg tree. Both are botanically incorrectly named in the commercial language and are neither a “nut” nor a “flower”. Their aroma is perceived as warm, pleasant, woody to sweetish throughout. As tempting as the aroma is: be careful, because nutmeg and mace can lead to poisoning if consumed in excess…


  • Continue reading
  • more on the subject
  • Botany
  • Ingredients, smell and taste
  • Use and preparation


The tropical nutmeg tree (Myristica fragrans) belongs to the nutmeg family (Myristicaceae), grows up to 20 meters and is at home on the Indonesian Banda Islands ("Spice Islands"). The female flowers develop into five to eight centimeters large, fleshy, peach-like fruits. When ripe, they are yellow in color and open with two flaps. Such an opening fruit is botanically a capsule. A tree supplies an average of 1,000 of these every year.

When the fruit opens, a dark brown seed with a red, slashed seed coat (arillus) appears. Both the seed and the aril ("mace", mace) are harvested separately, dried and used as a spice.

Botanically incorrect names in trade

  • Nutmeg:What is a "nut" and why is the nutmeg "nut" not a nut? Botanically, every fruit is characterized by the fact that it consists of a fruit shell or “shell” and seeds inside the fruit. Both parts, the peel and the seeds, must therefore be present when speaking of a fruit. A nut, such as the hazelnut, has a hard, woody shell around a seed and remains closed when ripe (closing fruit). You eat the "nut kernel", i.e. the seeds. The “core” of the fleshy capsule of the nutmeg (opening fruit) is also used, i.e. the seeds again. However, in the Middle Ages, when the nutmeg became known in Europe, no one knew what the nutmeg fruit actually looked like. Because you only knew the seeds and didn't know that the "shell around it" was missing,they were wrongly interpreted as hard (closing) fruits, i.e. nuts, and not as seeds. An error that is still in the commercial language today. The traded part of the nutmeg is mostly the inside of the seed without the seed shell.
  • Nutmeg: Macis is not a flower, but an additional formation around the seed of the nutmeg, namely a seed coat or aril. The term “mace” is also firmly anchored in the language of trade, perhaps at some point the more harmless term “mace” will prevail.

Note Nutmeg and mace are seed spices.

Both seed components are dried separately from each other. To do this, the seed coat is separated from the seed. The drying process of the seed is complete when a rattling can be heard when shaking, indicating that the inside of the seed has separated from the seed coat. Nutmegs are light to dark brown in color and have a wrinkled surface. The mace is orange to beige or amber in color.

Ingredients, smell and taste

The essential oil of nutmeg and mace (mace) has a similar composition. It smells warm and woody, with mace being perceived as rather sweet and the seed core as slightly peppery in taste. The nutmeg is also assigned a slight bitter note. The main components of the oil are monoterpene hydrocarbons such as sabinene, α- and β-pinene and monoterpene alcohol. The components myristicin and elemicin (phenylpropanoids) contained in the essential oil cause a slight spiciness and are hallucinogenic and liver toxic in higher doses from a few grams. The seed coat (arillus), which is bright red when fresh, contains the carotenoid lycopene and fades to orange to amber as it dries.

Note Consumed in large quantities (approx. Five grams or more), nutmeg and nutmeg can cause symptoms of poisoning. This amount corresponds, for example, to a small, commercially available nutmeg. Normally, however, quantities below one gram are used in the food and are therefore harmless.

Use and preparation

Nutmeg and mace (Macis) are sold whole and ground. It is best to process both directly when needed, e.g. with a fine nutmeg grater or in a mortar. As a whole, both spices can be stored for longer without a significant loss of flavor. In the ground state, there is a risk of mold infestation with aflatoxin contamination, as it may be poor quality goods (BWP goods - broken, wormy, punky). The use of nutmeg and mace (mace) is traditional in Indonesian and Indian cuisine for meat and vegetables, including as a component in spice mixtures (e.g. tandoori). Nutmeg is also used in many dishes in European cuisine: Classic combinations are, for example, with potatoes (puree), spinach, cheese, eggs and light vegetables such asCauliflower or asparagus.

Especially in Italian cuisine, people like to work with a touch of nutmeg, for example in bechamel for lasagne, but also as a spice in other pasta dishes. Nutmeg also goes well with sweets such as cookies, gingerbread, cakes, etc.

Popular by topic