Nutmeg powder is used for its beautiful warming aroma, reminiscent of home comforts and delicious baking. It has stimulating properties for the body, warming up muscles as well as festive spirits.
Nutmeg is a tropical evergreen tree from the family Myristicaceae. The tree is native to the Moluccas (also known as Spice Islands) in Indonesia where it is primarily cultivated. The nutmeg can grow as high as 20 metres (65 feet) and can bear fruit for over 60 years.
The fruits are apricot-shaped and when fully mature will crack in half revealing a crimson-coloured fibrous covering called ‘aril’. This is separated from the seed kernel (nutmeg), which is left to dry in the sun over a period of 6 to 8 weeks. During this time the nutmeg shrinks away from its shell until turning greyish-brown with a furrowed surface. Meanwhile, the fibres are allowed to dry and develop their strong aroma and eventually grounded into a fine, orange-tinted powder.
The botanical name for nutmeg derives from the Latin ‘nux’ meaning ‘nut’ and ‘muscat’ meaning ‘musky’, therefore “musky nut”. It took hundreds of years to become common in Europe not only for its unique, warm flavour but also for its expensive price. The nutmeg was once considered such a luxury that the tools used to grate the nut in spicing up dishes and wine were also finely decorated and worn as fancy accessories.