Nutmeg and Mace are two separate spices derived from the fruit of tree Myristica fragrans of the family Myristicaceae. Myristica fragrans is, in fact, the only tree in the world that produces two separate spices. The fruit contains a hard pit, which is a nutmeg, while the lacy red membrane which surrounds it is called mace. Nutmeg, a perennial evergreen spice tree, is native to the Moluccas in East Indonesia. From ancient times, Nutmeg has been a highly prized spice for its numerous culinary and other applications. Sri Lankan nutmeg and mace suppliers export whole nutmeg, nutmeg essential oil, and ground nutmeg and mace to global markets.
The fruits are fleshy and broad with longitudinal ridges along their circumference. During ripening, the fruit’s colour changes to yellow, and the pericarp is split into two halves exposing the seeds. The shiny seeds are covered by a red aril. The flavour of mace is softer and fruitier than that of nutmeg and is used in delicately flavoured recipes. It consists of essential oils, which give out its distinct flavour and aroma.
HISTORY OF NUTMEG CULTIVATION AND TRADE
From ancient times, Nutmeg has been a most prized spice. There is some evidence to support the claim that the Roman priests may have burned nutmeg as a form of incense. It is also believed to have been used as a prized and costly spice in medieval cuisine, used as flavourings, medicines, preserving agents and that was at the time highly valued in the European markets.
Up to the 19th Century, nutmeg was only grown in Banda Islands or Spice Islands in Eastern Indonesia, which also served as an entrepot destination for cloves. Just like with Sri Lanka, the successful spice trade in the Banda Islands led to bloody wars between the colonial powers who were fighting over the Asian spice trade.
The British Colonials, reducing to demolish the monopoly held by Banda Islands for Nutmeg and Mace introduced its cultivation Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, and British Bencoolen, now a part of Indonesia; where it thrived as a crop. Although there is evidence indicating that nutmeg had been brought to Sri Lanka before its formal introduction by merchants who travelled on the Silk Road.
CEYLON NUTMEG CULTIVATION AND EXPORT IN SRI LANKA
Nutmeg prefers cooler climes, so it is mainly cultivated in Sri Lanka’s central regions – in the districts of Matale, Kegalle and Kandy. The total extent of
Nutmeg cultivation in Sri Lanka is 2788ha of which 80% of the plantations are in Kandy district owned by small and mid-scale farmers.
Just like with Ceylon Tea, and other varieties of spices; Nutmeg, grown in Sri Lanka has developed an intricate chemical composition and a flavour complex based on the unique terroir of the country, and is identified under the geographical indication of Ceylon Nutmeg.
Sri Lanka serves around 5% of the global demand for nutmeg, exporting mainly to India, UAE, the USA, Germany, and Pakistan. The country also serves around 7% of the global demand for Mace the spice, exporting to mainly India, Germany, and the UK.
USES OF NUTMEG AND MACE SPICES
While nutmeg is available as whole fruit, nutmeg and mace is commonly found in grounded form and is also used to produce essential oil through steam distillation.
Nutmeg and mace powder and essential oil have many uses in culinary, food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, and perfumery industries.
Nutmeg and mace powder are primarily used for culinary purposes to flavour curries, confectioneries and bakery products as well as beverages including eggnog, tea and coffee. Mace powder has a distinct spicy-sweet taste and is used to add flavour to food, domestically and commercially. It is a widely used ingredient in desserts and baked products like desserts, confectionaries, baked food.
Nutmeg essential oil, obtained by the steam distillation of ground nutmeg, is an ingredient widely used as a natural food flavouring in baked goods, syrups, beverages, and sweets. In fact, nutmeg oil is an ingredient used in producing cola drinks. It is also used in the manufacturing of toothpaste, cough syrup, and is also an essential ingredient in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine and aromatherapy.
Nutmeg butter is produced by compressing the whole nut or carbon dioxide extraction and is a semisolid of yellow colour with many uses in the personal care and cosmetic industry. Traditionally used to treat skin irritations, joint pain and toothache; nutmeg butter is now being used to manufacture soap, creams, lotions, lip balms, body butter, shampoo, hair pomades, rinse-out hair conditioners, and bath bombs.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF NUTMEG AND MACE
The essential oils and nutrients present in mace powder are responsible for its medicinal value. It is also known to be an antifungal, anti-depressant, aphrodisiac, digestive and carminative agent. It is a great source of minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, zinc and magnesium. It also is rich in B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin A and many flavonoid antioxidants like beta carotene and cryptoxanthin.