Wednesday, April 16, 2014

N is for Nutmeg: Yummy Fruits A-Z

(Nutmeg trees grow 40-70 feet;
the fruit often splits when ripe)
Did you know that nutmeg is actually a fruit? Two spices are derived from this aromatic fruit, nutmeg from the seed (nutmeat), and mace from the seed's red membrane (aril). The yellow fruit surrounding the seed and membrane is also edible, which in Malaysia is often candied or pickled as a snack.

The origin of the nutmeg tree can be traced back to the island of Banda, the largest of the Molucca islands (or Spice Islands) in Indonesia. It is also grown in Malaysia, the Caribbean, India, Sri Lanka, and Papua New Guinea. The history of this spice is long and colorful, dating back to medieval times when a monk in Europe first sprinkled nutmeg over his pudding. Nutmeg was later thought to ward off the plague during Elizabethan times. 

Others recorded its use as well, like Roman author Pliny in the first century, who liked nutmeg's two flavors. Emperor Henry VI had the streets of Rome scented with nutmeg for his coronation, and Constantinople received his first nutmeg from visiting Arab merchants. The price of nutmeg soared. By the fourteenth century, a half kilogram is said to have cost three sheep or a cow. 


(Nutmeg fruit is 0.8 to 1.2 inches long)
The Dutch went to war over nutmeg in 1621, gaining control of its production in the East Indies. The price soared even higher. In 1760, a pound of nutmeg cost 85 to 90 shillings in London. The monopoly lasted until World War II.

Apparently, nutmeg was used for centuries as a form of snuff in Indonesia and India, and also as medicine. However, high doses sometimes caused nutmeg poisoning, which is still possible today. A little goes a long way. Some claim it can sharpen the brain, ease joint pain, rev blood circulation, and help with digestion. But for most of us, nutmeg is a flavorful spice for our eggnogs, breads, cookies, and cakes.


Nutmeg Recipe


(Spices I purchase)
"Overnight Nutmeg Cookies"

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons half-and-half
3 tablespoons orange juice
Grated rind of 1 orange
3 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream butter with sugar in medium bowl. In second bowl combine cream, orange juice, and rind; blend well. Sift flour and stir in nutmeg and salt. Add butter mixture alternately with orange juice mixture. Add more flour (if needed) to form stiff dough. Shape into roll and wrap in waxed paper. Chill overnight. Slice chilled dough 1/8 inch thick and place on greased baking sheet. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven 8-10 minutes. Yield: 4-5 dozen. 

(Grating nutmeg seed. Can we buy in U.S.?)


Nutmeg Books

--Nathaniel's Nutmeg: Or the True and Incredible 
Adventures of the Spice Trader Who Changed the Course of History by Giles Milton (2000) (nonfiction)

--Tumtum & Nutmeg: The Rose Cottage Adventures 
by Emily Bearn and Nick Price (2013) (ages 8-12)

--The Nutmeg of Consolation 
(book 14) 
by Patrick O'Brian (1993) (adult) 

--The Nutmeg Princess by Richardo Keens-Douglas 
and Annouchka Galouchko (2014) (ages 6-9)


Nutmeg Song

--"My Nutmeg Phantasy" by Macy Gray





Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nutmeg; http://www.care2.com/greenliving/8-amazing-health-benefits-of-nutmeg.html


26 comments:

  1. Alton Brown (on his wonderful show Good Eats) used nutmeg frequently. He'd use a special grater for it. I forget where he got it, but it grated the nutmeg perfectly (he'd never buy the powder, he'd only grate it fresh to use).

    Liz A. from Laws of Gravity

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    1. I like kitchen tools ....and baking/cooking from scratch when time permits :)

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  2. I had no idea it was a fruit!

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  3. Great choice - again, Sharon. I just watched a PBS special on the spice trade. Fortunes were made and lost, wars were fought and won, with the spice islands the prize between Portugal, Spain and later the Dutch.
    I use nutmeg in my cheese souffle and mashed potatoes, and a friend just stated: "That's so European." Well, what else did she expect?

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    1. Volumes have been written on the subject! Nutmeg on potatoes....now there's one I have never heard of...gotta try!

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  4. I think of the Gary Larson cartoon where the other spices are in a row and it is Christmas and one says "Hey can Nutmeg come out to play?" When I get a chance I will write down your recipe

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    1. Oh, don't you just miss Gary Larson? I wonder what he is doing now.

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  5. Don't you wonder who was the first person to think hey let's grate this inside part and get something out of it?

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    1. Ha-ha. I wonder this kind of thing about all exotic fruits!

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  6. Interesting, Sharon, and a great-looking receipe. I'm up for anything that sharpens the brain, but as you say, I knew it mostly as a spice. Great post.
    Silvia @
    SilviaWrites

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    1. Me, too....and the brain is getting pretty mushy at this point. Getting tired but still plugging away with the A-Z. Thanks for visiting, Silvia!

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  7. I had no idea nutmeg was a fruit--I wonder what it tastes like?

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  8. I thought it's a spice?
    It's delicious on hot puddings... especially bread pudding... and sago/tapioca... yummy!
    Writer In Transit

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    1. Yum....haven't had bread pudding in ages!

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  9. Lots of interesting facts!

    I hope you are enjoying A to Z.

    Yvonne

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    1. Thank you. Hope to see you again, Yvonne!

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  10. No, I didn't realise. I love nutmeg.. cooking and baking with it, but I never gave a thought to the actual plant the spice comes from.

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    1. A surprise to me too. Hope you're enjoying the A-Z, Damaria!

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  11. Interesting facts about nutmeg! I think if I had attended Henry VI's parade, I would've sneezed the whole time!

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    1. You're right....a pretty powerful scent! Nice to see you here, Sherry.

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  12. Hi Sharon .. love nutmeg .. and I've got Giles Milton's book .. if not that one, I think two others of his .. I love reading about the spice trade routes ...

    I use nutmeg on junkets - see last year's J - and in Spanokopita - a Greek spinach, cheese and phyllo dish - one of my favourites ... and in fruit cakes .. cheers Hilary

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  13. When I saw this book, I knew I had to buy it. Cannot wait to read. I love your suggestions for using nutmeg. Thanks, Hilary!

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