Did You Know?
The golden-brown or red, net-like sheath that covers a nutmeg is called mace. Nutmeg and mace are perhaps the oldest spices, as the uses of these spices are described in ancient Roman literature of the 1st century CE.
Nutmeg is obtained from various tree species belonging to the genus Myristica. The Banda Islands (Spice Islands) that are a part of Indonesia produce high-quality mace, which is nothing but the dried, lacy aril of the nutmeg. The whole world was dependent on these islands for these spices until the middle of the 19th century. For commercial production, farmers prefer the evergreen species named Myristica fragrans. These spices are an invariable part of the Indian, Indonesian, Middle Eastern, European, and Penang cuisine. These days, various countries produce these spices. Indonesia and Grenada are the leading producers.
Nutmeg and Mace
Mace and nutmeg
Nutmeg is more widely used than mace. It is usually used in the powdered form. Mace, the dry covering of the seed, is more often used to enhance the flavor of light, savory dishes. It is less sweeter than nutmeg. The bright crimson, saffron-like hue and the mild flavor that it imparts makes the dish more attractive and irresistible. It has a spicy, but subtle taste. The strong aroma of this spice is somewhat similar to the aroma of pepper and cinnamon. In some dishes, for a better and sharp flavor, you may use grated mace (just rub it gently) instead of its powdered form.
Culinary Uses of Mace
Dried maces
✦ Usually, both nutmeg and mace are used to flavor potato dishes, like mashed potatoes, especially in Europe.
✦ These spices help enhance the taste of various types of broths, soups, omelets, sauces, lasagna, and bakery products like biscuits, muffins, cakes, and breads.
✦ They are present in a number of processed meat products.
✦ The Scottish use them to make haggis, a savory pudding.
✦ In Asian cuisine, mace is an invariable ingredient of the spice blends that are freshly made to prepare royal rice dishes like "biryani" and "pulao".
✦ It is present in the spice mixture that is added to Indian tea.
✦ For its color and flavor, it is used in curries and pickles too.
✦ It is used in sweet dishes like pies, milk custards, puddings, and certain fruit dishes.
Medicinal Uses of Mace
Organic mace
In mace, the essential oils like myristicin, eugenol, and safrole are found in higher concentrations than in nutmeg. The spice is low in calories, rich in protein, iron, calcium, vitamin A and C, and carotene.
✦ Topical application of mace oil helps relieve joint pain due to arthritis. The essential oil eugenol from the spice helps relieve toothache and pain due to mouth ulcers.
✦ Mace helps lower the symptoms of diarrhea, bloating, and nausea. It helps reduce stomach spasms and stomach pain.
✦ It exhibits antibacterial, antioxidant, and antifungal properties. It is used to control digestive and respiratory tract infections.
✦ It helps lower the symptoms of kidney infection. It also reduces inflammation of the bladder and urinary tract.
✦ It works great for asthma. It is present in many cough syrups and cold rubs.
✦ Traditionally, mace and nutmeg are known for their antidepressant and aphrodisiac properties. They can uplift your mood.
✦ They act as mild sedatives when given to babies and adults. They are used to treat sleep disorders.
✦ Some study results have shown that the essential oil myristicin can help prevent progression of Alzheimer's disease as it prevents degeneration of brain cells.
✦ It is believed that it helps improve blood circulation and ensures proper functioning of the liver.
✦ It is believed that the volatile oils in the spice help fight carcinogenic elements.
More clinical research is essential to prove the health benefits of mace mentioned above. As it is used in very small amounts, it is safe to use it in the traditional way. If you think that nutmeg would be too strong for the dish, you may use mace. It should be stored in a cool and dry place, away from sunlight; preferably in a glass jar that has a tight-fitting lid.