Mace and Nutmeg

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

Mace and nutmeg have similar aromas and come from the same source: the fruit of a tropical Asian tree, Myristica fragrans, which appears to have originated in New Guinea. Along with cloves, nutmeg put the Spice Islands, the Malaccas that are now part of Indonesia, on the maps of European sea powers. The Portuguese and then the Dutch monopolized the nutmeg trade until the 19th century, when the tree was successfully planted in the Caribbean and elsewhere. Nutmeg and mace didn’t make much of an impression on European foods until the Middle Ages. Today they provide the characteristic flavoring for doughnuts and eggnog, and are added to hot dogs and other sausages. Nutmeg is also an important element of the classic French béchamel sauce.