Fresh Mace & Nutmeg

A plastic grocery bag filled with literally “jaw-dropping” contents… After 8 years of maintaining this blog, I have run across far, far more edible things than I would ever have imagined. And while I occasionally think I am close to running out of things to write about, every once in a while, a flabbergastingly spectacular thing occurs… a totally out of context, local and amazing bit of produce or dish or item presents itself. The other day, it was a bag filled with locally grown nutmeg and mace (Myristica fragrans), freshly harvested from a lone tree lovingly raised somewhere in Laguna…

I suspect not more than a handful of readers have ever seen mace and nutmeg this fresh. Unless you have been to plantations on the spice islands, or are a particularly avid foodie, this is a very rare opportunity indeed. I use freshly grated nutmeg in pies, compotes and creamy baked desserts. I knew I had one up on the powdered stuff because I grated my own nuts (nutmeg nuts, that is) and the oils released themselves into the whatever dish I was cooking. I also knew enough about spices to technically be aware that mace was the webbing that covers the nutmeg… but I had never seen it fresh.

Let me tell you, it is STUNNING to behold. The red webbing is an intense deep red, totally reminiscent of spiderman’s costume, for lack of anything else to compare it to. In fact, the creator of Spiderman might have been on mood altering substances AND happened to spy a freshly harvested nutmeg fruit just before he drew out Spiderman’s costume… :)

Apparently, the light orange fruit splits in half while still hanging on the tree, the thick fleshly part having protected the seed from the elements, insects, etc. while it reached maturity. The fruit then falls to the ground and is either gathered up for human consumption or I suppose, grows into nutmeg seedlings. Apparently, this particular lone nutmeg tree in the wonderful garden of a friend’s family bears a tremendous amount of fruit for its relatively small size… and with such a bounty, a bag of the nuts were given to us… Thank you, thank you. :)

The whole fruit that has already split itself, half of the fruit with the mace and nutmeg clearly visible, the peeled off “fingers” of red mace, and the nuts (nutmeg) itself. It’s so fascinating for me to get this whole glimpse at how fresh mace and nutmeg looks…

Here seen another way…

Close-ups of each stage…

…until you have just the whole nutmeg.

We carefully peeled all of the mace from the nutmeg and dried them in the sun for several hours.

And now I am going to have to find a recipe worthy of such fresh mace and nutmeg… There’s a really interesting article on mace, here, if you are curious. More detailed history of nutmeg and mace, here.

A nutmeg grater.

Freshly grated nutmeg (I used an old nut from the pantry as the fresh ones weren’t dried enough yet)…

P.S. Trivia tidbit – Mace was one of the original spices in hotdogs… :)


69 Responses

  1. Fascinating post – I’ve never seen fresh nutmegs before…
    Is there any use for the red peels?

  2. Jade186, the dried red “arils” become Mace. The nut is nutmeg. Two distinct spices, though closely related. Mace has fallen out of use… but as one of the links asserts, we need to bring it back in full force… :)

  3. For a lover of spices, I’m seriously lacking in knowledge, as I haven’t seen nutmeg this fresh and I know nothing about mace. @_@

    I learned something new today. Thank you! :D

    Oh, and about the Spiderman costume thing, the first time I saw the pictures I thought of Venom and Spiderman. Hehe. Weird.

  4. Very fascinating post! Stunning texture and color contrasts in the fifth photo. They look like Hollywood alien thingies.

  5. MM, that last photo looks like you were in an alien catfight and you managed to gouge out the eyes of a small squad of them!

    but this is so first time to see fresh nutmeg. don’t the indonesians drink nutmeg juice?

  6. Mace is used in fruit cakes or cookies. Thank you for the pictures and the information. I always learn something new here. Don’t people in the olden days chew on mace?

  7. The mace looks like some alien shed its skin. And I never knew nutmeg was essentially a fruit.

  8. Hi MM, very interesting post. Is it easy to grow a nutmeg tree? And what type of soil will it thrive on. Is it volatile to pests and insects and plant diseases?

  9. Just an interesting factoid, in front of the ION Orchard mall lies a behemoth Nutmeg and Mace sculpture. This is because Orchard Road was a nutmeg plantation before. And yes, there is another nutmeg sculpture as well in front of the Orchard Central, a relatively new mall.

  10. Wow! I learned something new again, this is the first time I’ve seen both Mace and Nutmeg as fresh produce. I’ve always seem them as bottled spices. Is the fruit edible? (The fleshy part around the mace/nutmeg).

  11. Wow! Lucky you! Freshly grated nutmeg is the best indeed. I also like to use it in savory things like squash soup, creamed cabbage, and sometimes in mashed potatoes :)

  12. I am surprised your friend has only 1 tree and bore fruits? I thought that you need both male and female nutmeg trees if it came from seed. However, most likely what your friend has is a grafted tree in which case, they don’t need 2 trees.

    Maybe your friend, MM, can graft one for you?…by the time the Teen finishes her degree, then your tree will bear the nuts!

    Hey, Millet and Ms. Connie C…if you can get your hands on several seeds, maybe you can start a plantation!…takes patience though for meron ka ng apo sa tuhod Millet and Ms. Connie before it bears any fruit or nuts!

  13. wow… those are gorgeous!
    BTW it would take days of debating before I could answer your poll question.. so difficult! haha.

  14. This is the reason why I am such a huge follower of this blog. You give me glimpses of possibilities. From your arcane (to me) posts on table arrangements, old maps and now this! Just coming here everyday gives me something new to learn. Thanks a lot!

  15. All that nutmeg! We have a jar of about 10 dried pieces and just finished one after about a year. You’re set for life, MM!

    oh btw, is it ok to pin this? (I’ll go through your archives in case you already answered this question)

  16. Stunning pictures!!! Love nutmeg.As Alton Brown always point out to use the nut,not powder:)

  17. Going out of Penang, Malaysia, I was convinced by the ladies in the counter selling candies to buy a few boxes of nutmeg. I love nutmeg spice/flavor but not this candied version, or at least the ones I bought at the Penang airport. It was the fruit itself (the one covering the stone) and had a rather peculiar taste (or maybe I was just not used to it), it wasn’t even sweet and so it took a long, long time to be consumed in our household. LOL! But I took note not to buy something like it again.

  18. Wow its great to know we have them in Philippines too. The first time I’ve seen was in France from the garden of my in-laws. During medieval times nutmeg is one of the most priced spice in European cooking. Mace is actually native to Indonesia inthe region of Spice Islands and Magellan was actually searching for a shorter route to these region cause spices cost are skyrocketing high. Thanks for sharing your magnificent find MM!

  19. So, that’s how fresh mace and nutmeg look like! Very photogenic! I love the deep colors. Once again, thank you to MM for this post. I learned something new again today. :)

    MM, what happens to the yellow, santol-like cover? Any uses?

  20. Stunning! I hope there were some flowers in the bag because they are so fragrant! Lucky guy!

  21. So beautiful! I’ve never seen them like that although apparently the Philippines produces a significant export crop – but where? One cuisine that really appreciates nutmeg is Italian. Elizabeth David suggests a dry spice rub of white pepper, cloves, nutmeg and juniper berries for grilled chicken. I’d love to try this with your stunning fruit.

  22. Love the 6th photo!
    Thank you for sharing, Mr. MM. Your site is a fount of information.

  23. WOW!! WOW!! I have lovingly treasured a few of the nutmeg I brought back from Jakarta several years ago but never have seen the fresh fruit in all its intricate glory!! Thank you again, MM

  24. MM, this post is one of the reasons I so love your blog! I had never seen fresh nutmeg, and although I had heard of mace, knew nothing at all about it. You’re right about them looking like Spiderman’s mask, and I also think they look like alien pods. I appreciate that tidbit about the fruit splitting in half before it falls; I was wondering how you cut them all so cleanly. Those split fruits must be quite a sight when still on the tree!

    I’m amazed that there is even one nutmeg tree in the country, so how lucky you are to know the owners! They couldn’t have given the fruits to a better person — not only because you will make full use of it, but moreso because you can educate the very many of us who had previously been ignorant of it.

  25. It’s always wonderful to learn something new every day and that happens each time I drop by your blog. :)

    I have never used mace for food before, I would think that with a whole lot you can use it for spray? As for nutmeg, I go by Rachel Ray’s rule to use it on creamy dishes as the spice gives it a subtle depth.

  26. wooww! that’s amazing! my first time see a fresh mace/nutmeg. Thanks MM I always learn something new .God Bless!TY.

  27. Surprised to learn that the MACE is actually RED in color. I have a stash I use for making fruitcake and for cabanossi (German Sausages) but the powdered form is pure white. Makes me wonder now if I have the real thing.

    I still have whole NUTMEG from a bottle we brought back home from the States 35 years ago. It smells alright but I do not use it anymore. I just keep it as a souvenir. :)

  28. Learning something new everyday. First time to see fresh nutmeg from the fruit and first time encountering mace. Interesting stuff!

    I’ve used nutmeg in baking before and then just used ground nutmeg from the grocery. Also, the bottle was probably already a few years old when I used it but it was still potent stuff. The fresh stuff must really be something to behold.

  29. Marnie, good question, apparently, according to another commenter it is… but I assumed it wasn’t, so I simply threw it out. :(

    More interesting info on nutmeg, here, and yes, apparently the fruit is edible. Other interesting tidbits from that spice center post/website suggests that, and I quote loosely, “nutmeg is not a nut, but a seed, so folks with nut allergies will be fine with it. Tucking nutmeg under your left armpit before going to a cocktail party will make you more attractive to the ladies, of course you couldn’t ever raise your left arm, making you look like you just suffered a mild stroke, nutmeg is poisonous, but okay in really small doses, like a pinch or two… and finally, men used to carry around vials of nutmeg oils and dab their gonads with it for greater virility.” :)

  30. A novelty for me, MM! So fascinated. Yes, looks like ‘spiddy’. Even on television, it’s just the nut they show … always with the grater. I have to use store-bought grated ones … for dishes with milk and cream including ‘ginataan’ ones.

  31. Hi MM – first off, re: pins. You probably meant “pinning” not “pining”. ;-)

    Secondly, I recently watched an episode of Peter Kuruvita’s Island Feast. He’s an Aussie chef with Sri Lankan (?) heritage. Island Feast features his visits to some Pacific Islands including the Philippines, Fiji, Indonesia etc. Try to check YouTube. The latest episode I watched was somewhere in Indonesia, he was following the spice trade route and it landed him to the area that was the ‘original source’ of spice, i.e., nutmeg, cinnamon, mace. This segment showed the plantation, processing etc, particularly of nutmeg, mace, etc.

  32. I’ve never even heard of a spice call mace. To me mace is a medieval spike-y weapon. :)

  33. Interesting !!! first time i have seen fresh nutmeg/mace thank you for the photo’s love the smell of nutmeg.

  34. Dragon, yes, “pinning” not “pining” — my command of the English language is left wanting. Note my often poor use of apostrophe’s (sic) hahahaha. It’s the same reason I asked my daughter why one was tweeting and not twitting if the vehicle was called twitter. She said only twits twit, tweeters tweet. :)

  35. MM…I think you meant nutmeg when consumed in fairly large doses can produce a “high” people refer to as “Nutmeg High”…which can send someone to a hospital!

    So, make sure you keep your nutmeg in a safe place!

  36. Marketman would it be too forwarded of me to ask for a “seed” or two in order to try to grow a plant? Gejo and I can try to grow them at our farms in the hopes that the weather in tagaytay would be compatible growing environment. The Mace is very interesting.

  37. Nacho and Gejo, I will set aside a few seeds for you… I already sent some to another reader today, so that fills up the “give away” quotient as I only have 9 left, 3 for planting in Cebu, the rest for use in Manila… Will give these to Gejo the next time I see him… that should be in the next week or two, so the seeds will be fresh for planting…

  38. These look positively otherworldly.

    I wonder though if commercial nutmeg seeds are roasted. If they are just dried, could you actually “plant” them?

  39. risa, I suspect if they are just dried and relatively fresh, you can plant them. I hope they don’t need the red arils as the “first food” before they germinate, as I have removed all of the arils… If the seeds are roasted first, I suspect they will not likely germinate and grow. Nacho, no problem at all, 3 seeds each for you and Gejo in an envelope set aside… :)

  40. Wow! I’ve never seen mace/nutmeg in fresh form ever. Didn’t know they were this exotic and beautiful.

    As I was scrolling down through the comments I was thinking “can I plant this?! ‘ . Then, lo and behold, Nacho’s comment and your response, MM. Thanks very much! I look forward to trying this out….

    Looks like avocado huh. Except for the beautiful red “web” of course – spectacular! And the different color. I heard before that mace is endemic to parts of Indonesia.

  41. Gejo…I hope that the seeds MM will give you will bear seeds for you need both MALE and FEMALE trees. As I have said, it could be propagated by grafting as well thereby, you only need 1 tree. So, I am assuming then as I have said before that MM’s friend’s tree must have been a grafted one.

  42. Thanks bettyq! I have no idea yet how to plant this – must research some more. I don’t know if it’s similar to planting avocado, which I’ve done before (although my recent planting of avocado of perfect variety has not sprouted yet! ) . Any other planting tips>

  43. My guess, Gejo, is the seed must be similar to the winged bean….masyadong matigas the skin even after soaking it in water. To speed up germination of the winged bean, I scratch the surface of the skin so water will penetrate the skin. I think it would help in germination of the nutmeg. Granted it is a fresh nutmeg, maybe still soak it in water so there is moisture after scratching the surface though distal to the eye? This beats planting the seed directly in soil and then having to water them keeping the soil moist to aid in germination. So, just like your avocado which is suspended in water, maybe the same principle would apply. Only you cannot make tusok with a toothpick for it is impossible to do so.

    It will take awhile to germinate though. We are talking weeks!!!! Therefore my friend, here is where patience plays a key role! And I hope I live long enough to see your nutmeg tree bear seeds!

  44. Have seen a nutmeg tree only once (in Hawaii). I recall the leaves are also fragrant. And I also believe that both nutmeg and mace are toxic used in more than small quantities.

  45. This was a wonderful entry, in pictures and words. Thanks for the added knowledge :)

  46. Love this article and the subsequent comments. It’s a quintessential Marketmanila post and the comments add to the discovery.
    Hopefully 2012 will be the year of mace/nutmeg learning. Since you’ve got zubuchon, maybe you can add sausage making to the repertoire MM, and the mace will be an added secret ingredient.
    I only have access to ground nutmeg here, but we use up quite a lot of it along with cloves and cinnamon when making pumpkin pies and cakes, gingerbread/spice cakes during the fall. I love the smell of the kitchen at that time of year.
    I wonder if any chocolatier has tried to recreate the look of a nutmeg/mace seed in a truffle?

  47. Mila…here is how to do it. First make your truffle. then do you know how to make chocolate plastique? If you do, then I don’t need to go thru my tupperware for the white chocolate plastique. The proportion of white chocolate to corn syrup is different from the dark and the milk chocolate plastique. The key thing to remember is that the white chocolate temp. must be the same as the corn syrup. If the chocolate is too hot, the dough will seize up.

    Another tip….so you don’t have fingermarks on the plastique, roll it in between plastic sheet wrap as thin as you can and you can cut out so it resembles the mace. Be sure to dry it a bit so you can wrap it around the truffle loosely. Another way of shaping the mace covering is…after you cut it out let it rest on something like an cut empty plastic Easter egg or even better, a plastic quail egg…cut it in half and use that as a mould for the cut out plastique. You can also use baby chocolate egg moulds available at craft stores or baking supply stores!

    Hope that helps!

  48. Dear MM Gejo dropped off the nutmeg at the farm a couple of weeks ago. Thank you very much, and hoping I can get them to grow.

  49. Wow! This is so great! Your site is such a treasure. Didn’t have a clue how fresh nutmeg and mace (never knew what that was before this) could lok so stunningly pretty. THank you for this :-)

  50. Actually, mace (macis in french) is also used in the fabrication of sausages. A speciality from switzerland ” saucisse a rotir vaudoise” (roast sausage) is very well known and has quite a bit of that spice in it. Not only it gives the sausage a delicious flavor, but it also gives to that sausage a delicate pinky color…

  51. Hi,

    Where can I buy fresh/dried nutmeg seeds here in the Philippines? I am from Bacoor, Cavite. Please let me know. Thanks. :-)

  52. Aris, they sell nutmeg (whole dried seeds) in the spice section of good groceries in Manila. Or try Santis delicatessen or the Flavors and Spices stall at Salcedo market on Saturdays. I do not know Bacoor and so can’t say if anyone sells nutmeg there.

  53. We cannot find dried Mace anywhere in the Philippines and its required in sausage recipes like “Lincolnshire” or “Cumberland” . We have used nutmeg as a substitute but hoping our friends coming from Canada next year will bring us some over in their luggage.

    …unless someone knows of another supply ?
    the normal sweet Filipino sausages are not to our taste


  54. Dear Marketman,

    Hope you’re still around…I would love to buy or exchange some seeds or seedlings from you…preferably in Cebu. Please let me know if this is possible?





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