Monday

About Nutmeg



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.
Nutmeg Pots
Use nutmeg when you are preparing dishes that use eggs, cream, or rich cheeses. Think of nutmeg for fruits like bananas, apples or peaches. Nutmeg enhances vegetables like squash, carrots, cauliflower, spinach and potatoes. It makes a very nice accompaniment to lightly dressed pasta or plain rice. The more you use it, the more you will appreciate its subtle appeal.
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.

Where Does Nutmeg Come From?

Photo Courtesy of Richard RenaldiNutmeg (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
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/75/Nutmeg_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
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7a/Nutmeg_whole.JPG
By Miansari66 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday

Beat the Heat

While you are enjoying all of this hot summer weather, don't forget to protect your herbs. Water them in the morning and never spray the leaves of your outdoor plants during the hottest part of the day. Deep water herbs at least once a week, and be sure to pinch the stems of any herbs that are starting to bolt. This will help extend the useful life of annuals for a couple of weeks.

If you are harvesting your herb crops, avoid placing harvested herbs in plastic bags, and try to get plants harvested early in the day.

This is a good time to start experimenting with herb flavored drinks, like mint ice tea, and lemon balm infused English breakfast tea. Sun tea is fun to make, and kids love it.

When using your herbs as a garnish, immerse the stems in cool water to keep your display herbs green and firm.

If you still have dill and cilantro, try using them in a green salad. That goes for your chives and basil too. Add a little summer savory to your next potato or pasta salad, and try sprinkling just a little chopped rosemary on your next batch of cottage fries.