Nutmeg & Mace
Scientific Name: Myristica fragrans
Plant Part Nutmeg: Seed
Plant Part Mace: Aril
Other Names for Nutmeg: Arrëmyshk, Muskatnød, Noix de muscade, Muskatnuss, Szerecsendió, Muskat, Noce moscata, Jaiphal.
Other Names for Mace: Javitri, Fleur de muscade, Muskatblüte,Sekar pala, Fuli, Vasa-vasi
Nutmeg and mace are obtained from the fruit of an evergreen tree called Myristica fragrans (Fragrant nutmeg or true nutmeg tree), which belongs to the Myristicaceae family. A native of Indonesia, this tree is found on a small group of islands known as Moluccas (or the Maluku Islands of the Malay Archipelago).
Some of the first seedlings of this tree were transplanted in Mauritius by a Frenchman by the name of Pierre Poivre who managed to smuggle some nutmeg seeds to Mauritius where they were successfully re-planted.
The British East India Company then transported the nutmeg plants to Penang, Singapore, India, Sri Lanka, and the West Indies.
Nutmeg and mace are now also cultivated in India, Sri Lanka Penang island in Malaysia, and in the Caribbean region.
Nutmeg is the seed inside the fruit of the true nutmeg tree and mace is the covering or aril that is formed outside the shell of the nutmeg seed.
The true nutmeg tree thrives well in warm humid conditions in locations with an annual rainfall of 150 cm and more and can take up to 5 years for the trees to flower. The female nutmeg tree starts fruiting from the sixth year, though the peak period is reached after 20 years. The fruits are ready for harvest about 9 months after ﬂowering.
A single healthy tree can grow up to 40 feet in height and can produce 2000 nutmeg fruits per year.
Nutmeg has a nutty, warm, and slightly sweet taste that comes from a total of 32 different compounds that can be found in its oil, some of these are Sabinene, Myristicin, 4-terpineol, and α-pinene amongst others
Mace on the other hand has a sweet, woody, and warm, with a mild pungent kick, very much like nutmeg but softer and not quite as sweet.
History of Nutmeg & Mace
It is believed that the fruit of the true nutmeg tree had been traded from as early as 200 BC by the Romans who would travel east across the Indian Ocean to conduct trade with the natives of Banda, a group of 11 volcanic Islands that are part of Indonesia.
However, after the fall of the Roman empire, nutmeg and mace were now being traded by the Arabs who acted as middlemen and further sold it to the Venetians for distribution within Europe around the 13th century.
By the turn of the 15th century, the Portuguese were able to locate these islands and able to trade through various trading posts that they had set up in the far east. Not only did they trade nutmeg and mace from the Banda Islands, but also Cloves for years to come.
With their mapmaking skills, explorers, and navigators, the Portuguese had an advantage in setting themselves up in the far east. A place that no other European had gone to before.
At the end of the 15th century, the Dutch sent their explorers to the far east and this fleet ends up reaching Java. Now, the Dutch create what they call the Dutch East India Company, a market-listed company, giving them access to a huge amount of money to fund their exploration and colonisation activities.
The British were not far behind, they also set up a company similar to the Dutch.
One by one, the trading posts that were set up by the Portuguese in the far east fell either to the Dutch or the British.
By the 17th or 18th century, the British controlled most of India while the Dutch controlled Ceylon (Srilanka), Indonesia, and the Spice Islands.
Harvesting and Post Harvesting Practices
The Myristica fragrans tree flowers and bears fruit throughout the year however there is a peak harvesting season that lasts for about 3 months each year, depending on the location of the plantation.
When ripe, the nutmeg fruit naturally splits open and this is the best time for harvesting. Harvesting is generally done via handpicking or using wooden or bamboo poles as the trees can grow up to 65 feet in height.
Fruits need to be harvested on a regular basis especially during the harvesting season as ripened fruits tend to detach themselves from the tree and fall on the ground. If left too long this can cause the mace to decay rapidly.
Once harvested, the outer skin or flesh is removed to obtain the mace and the nutmeg seed shell.
The mace is carefully removed by hand as it is quite delicate and often graded by how intact it is. Both the nutmeg and mace are then dried either in the sun or by using mechanical driers.
Our Supply Chain
The Sabor Co. is an importer and distributor of nutmeg & mace in Australia. Our head office in New Delhi, India is responsible for procurement, packaging, and exports of all the spices in our range.
We ethically procure all our nutmeg & mace directly from farmers, further processing and packaging the produce while maintaining traceability throughout the supply chain.
Currently, we are working with marginal farmers in the following countries.
Nutmeg is largely grown in the southern state of Kerala in various districts including Thrissur, Ernakulam, Kottayam, and in certain parts of Tamil Nadu including Kanyakumari.
The Sabor Co. works directly with marginal farmers across the Ernakulam district of Kerala and in Pollachi, Tamil Nadu. Read more