February’s Spice of the month
Looking for something to spice up your life? Then nutmeg could be the perfect condiment for you!
What is nutmeg
For many centuries it was believed that when taken in small doses, nutmeg worked as a potent aphrodisiac and latterly as a psychoactive!
It was also claimed that nutmeg cured headaches, fevers, bad breath and even the deadly Plague!
Today in cooking, we typically use nutmeg for its flavour, as an addition to sweet or savoury dishes. However, scientists have confirmed the nutmeg includes more than 140 active compounds, an abundance of antioxidants as well as anti-inflammatory properties!
But from where did this lusty little spice first originate?
The origins of nutmeg
Nutmeg originates from the Molucca Islands (or Spice islands) – one of the most beautiful places on earth – located in eastern Indonesia in the South Pacific. Here it grows from the Myristica frangans (or nutmeg tree), a tropical dark-leaved evergreen native to the Banda Islands.
These trees produce fruits which resemble a peach in shape known as the nutmeg apple. Once ripened, the fruit splits in half revealing a small nut inside. After 2 months of drying the seed, the nut reveals two different types of spices; nutmeg and mace. The red lazy coating that surrounds the nut, called an aril is what produces mace – very similar to nutmeg in taste. This outer coating is then removed to reveal the edible nutmeg.
The History of nutmeg – first imported to Europe
There are records of Nutmeg being mentioned along with other spices, by a Roman author Pliny the Elder in the 1st century. He ridiculed the fantastical stories spread by Arab traders to secure their monopoly on their spice trade of ‘winged animals’ guarding spices.
Nutmeg was an incredible valuable spice; a small bag held enough wealth to last a person’s lifetime.
For this reason, the Dutch waged a bloody war against the British, and took over the islands of Mallucas in Indonesia for 350 years!
Watch The Spice Trail video presented by Kate Humble.
How is Nutmeg used in cooking?
According to British Chef and spice expert, Stevie Parle, nutmeg is one of the most versatile and ‘British’ of all the spices. Just think, what would bread sauce or apple pie be without nutmeg?
Mainly used for flavour, nutmeg has a slightly sweeter taste and mace with more delicate notes.
Nutmeg is popular in desserts, especially fruit or pumpkin pies, custard tarts and cakes. However, it is equally delicious in savoury dishes such as grated into mac n’ cheese or parmesan baked polenta with nutmeg meat balls – great for vegetarians!
Nutmeg is also used in a variety of beverages, such as eggnog, chai, mulled wine, or as a garnish over foamy coffee drinks.
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Final thought of the day
Nutmeg uses are not just subjective to cooking, Nutmeg can be said to lower blood pressure, improve joint pains and help to settle upset stomachs as well.
The next Ginger and Spice Festival will take place during September 2020.
For all information about the Ginger and Spice Festival, Market Drayton, including the fringe events, please sign up to our ebulletin below or visit the website: www.gingerandspicefest.co.uk