I've been a nutmeg lover ever since my mother first sprinkled a little on top of my Christmas eggnog. It was good then, but it's better now that I grate my own. If you think nutmeg is a spice that belongs in the back of the cupboard, think again. Its mild flavor can be deceptive because it isn't as aromatic as cinnamon, or as aggressive as allspice, but nutmeg has something amazing going for it nonetheless. It's a natural blender spice. It enhances mild dishes by bringing flavors together into a cohesive and delicious whole.
What Is Nutmeg Good With?
Try making a fondue and taste the result with and without nutmeg; the same for a quiche, or a baked squash dish. You can't always taste it, but you will taste other flavors in a mild dish more deeply when you add nutmeg. Nutmeg is an example of what's best in spices and herbs, the ability to make dishes better without detracting from the main ingredients. It's a supporting player for sure, but it plays its role beautifully.
Take the time to use a rasp and grate your own, and you will find yourself looking for excuses to add nutmeg to your dishes. It smells that good.
Nutmeg (Myristicaceae) is the pit or kernel of a tropical evergreen tree that can grow 25 feet tall. The tree itself has dark glossy leaves and produces yellow flowers before the fruits appear. The pit isn't the only useful part of the fruit. Mace, another common spice, is the red, lacy outer covering (arillus) of the nutmeg pit.
The nutmeg tree originated in the spice islands of Indonesia. It becomes mature about the time people do, around 21 years of age.
How to Buy Nutmeg
Buy the whole pit rather than the ground nutmeg usually available in the grocery store; the flavor will be stronger and last longer. The pits are sometimes sold as nutmeg nuts, but this is a misnomer. Keep the pits in an air tight container. Do not refrigerate them.
Is Nutmeg Hallucinogenic?
If you've heard that nutmeg is hallucinogenic, it's true. The bad news is that you'd have to grind and eat over half a nut for it to have any effect and it would make you terribly nauseated.
Photo 1 - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ANutmeg_01.jpg
By Lee Coursey (Nutmeg Closeup Uploaded by Rojypala) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecom
Photo 2 - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ANutmeg_whole.JPG
By Miansari66 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons