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Nutmeg or Myristica fragrans is an evergreen tree indigenous to Indonesia. Nutmeg is the actual seed of the tree, roughly egg-shaped and about 20 to 30 mm (0.8 to 1 in) long and 15 to 18 mm (0.6 to 0.7 in) wide, and weighing between 5 and 10 g (0.2 and 0.4 oz) dried, while mace is the dried "lacy" reddish covering or arillus of the seed. This is the only tropical fruit that is the source of two different spices. The nutmeg seed is encased in a mottled yellow, edible fruit, the approximate size and shape of a small peach. The fruit splits in half to reveal a net-like, bright red covering over the seed. This is the aril which is collected, dried and sold as mace. Under the aril is a dark shiny nut-like pit, and inside that is the oval shaped seed which is the nutmeg.
Nutmegs are usually sold without the mace or hard shell. They are oval, about 25 mm (1 in) in length, lightly wrinkled and dark brown on the outside, lighter brown on the inside.Nutmeg and mace have similar taste qualities, nutmeg having a slightly sweeter and mace a more delicate flavour. Mace is often preferred in light dishes for the bright orange, saffron-like hue it imparts. Nutmeg is a tasty addition to cheese sauces and is best grated fresh (see nutmeg grater).
To grate nutmeg, hold a nutmeg and grate using a grater into fine shreds and use as required. Grated nutmeg can be used in various kind of desserts like kheer, cheesecakes, phirni, puranpoli etc. Ground nutmeg is also smoked in India. Grated nutmeg can also be added into variety of savoury dishes where just a hint of nutmeg is required to perk up the taste. It can also be added to homemade garam masalas and chai ka masalas where it adds a tinge of its flavour. Nutmeg is a tasty addition to cheese sauces and is best grated when fresh.
How to select
This can be prepared by roasting the whole seeds and then crushing them into fine powder. A blender or motar and pestle may be used for this purpose. Nutmeg powder is used for marinades or stews or soups.
Nutmeg can be bought whole or in the ground form. Whole nutmeg are much more aromatic and flavoursome and if possible try to buy whole as opposed to the ground powder. Whole nutmeg should be compact and free of any blemishes. Just like with other dried spices, when purchasing nutmeg, try to select that which is organically grown since this will give you more assurance that it has not been irradiated. Nutmeg is poisonous and should be used in moderation, a pinch or two is safeCulinary Uses
" In Indian cuisine, nutmeg is used in many sweet as well as savoury dishes (predominantly in Mughlai cuisine. It may also be used in small quantities in garam masala. Ground nutmeg is also smoked in India.
" Nutmeg is usually associated with sweet, spicy dishes - pies, puddings, custards, cookies and spice cakes
" It combines well with many cheeses, and is included in soufflés and cheese sauces. In soups it works with tomatoes, slit pea, chicken or black beans. It complements egg dishes and vegetables like cabbage, spinach, broccoli, beans onions and eggplant.
" In European cuisine, nutmeg and mace are used especially in potato dishes and in processed meat products; they are also used in soups, sauces, and baked goods. In Dutch cuisine nutmeg is quite popular, it is added to vegetables like Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and string beans.
" Japanese varieties of curry powder include nutmeg as an ingredient
" The essential oil from nutmeg is used as a natural food flavouring in baked goods, syrups, beverages, and sweets. It replaces ground nutmeg as it leaves no particles in the food.
" Nutmeg is a traditional ingredient in mulled cider, mulled wine, and egg nogHow to store
Store both ground and whole nutmeg away from sunlight in airtight containers.Health benefits
" Nutmeg oil is used as a major ingredient in some cough syrups.
" In traditional medicine nutmeg and nutmeg oil were used for illnesses related to the nervous and digestive systems.
" Used in small dosages nutmeg can reduce flatulence, aid digestion, improve the appetite and treat diarrhea, vomiting and nausea.
" Nutmeg's flavour and fragrance come from oil of myristica, containing myristicin, a poisonous narcotic. Myristicin can cause hallucinations, vomiting, epileptic symptoms and large dosages can cause death. These effects will not be induced, however, even with generous culinary usage.