How Nutmeg Is Produced
Nutmeg is made from the nut of the Myristica fragrans tree that is native to the Molucca Islands. The tree produces both nutmeg and mace. Nutmeg is the seed from the tree and mace is a red covering that is over the seed. This partly accounts for the fact that the two are often used in the same types of recipes.
The tree that produces these spices can grow up to 60 feet tall and take a full 7 years to bear fruit. A nutmeg tree can bear for up to 90 years, making the first 7 year investment worthwhile.
Nutmeg is grown for its culinary and medicinal uses. There are many products that come from the nutmeg seed. Besides the spice used in the kitchen, essential oils and nutmeg butter can be made. The essential oils are used in perfumes and pharmaceuticals. The oil is said to have hallucinogenic properties. It can also be used externally to treat toothache and rheumatic pains.
Nutmeg trees thrive in altitudes from sea level to 500 meters above sea level. The tree propagates through seeds. The older it gets the more it produces. One tree can yield as much as 5 kilograms of nutmeg per year. Full production is achieved at around 15 to 30 years.
Once the nutmeg seed is harvested from the tree and taken out of its covering, it is dried in the sun. The drying time lasts anywhere between 1 and 2 months. Growers know the nut is “ready” when they can hear a rattling when they shake it. The pit is broken open and the 2 centimeter nutmeg is exposed. It is immediately dipped into a lime concoction that repels insects and minimizes damage. The substandard quality nutmegs are sent off to have the oil extracted, which will then be used in foods, perfumes, and essential oils for medicinal purposes.
The dried seeds can then be ground for use as a spice. While once exclusive to the Molucca Islands, today nutmeg is grown in the West Indies, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Sumatra.
Previous Page: Nutmeg History
Next Page: Health Effects