Nutmeg grows on an evergreen tree that originated on the Spice Islands. It was once used for medicinal purposes in China and India and was even considered an aphrodisiac at one point!
PRODUCTION OF NUTMEG
The same tree that produces nutmeg also produces a spice called mace. The trees grow small fruits that will fall from the tree when ready to harvest. These fruits look like apricots but taste bitter and are not eaten raw (though they are pickled sometimes). Inside these fruits is the fruit flesh, the pod, and then a thin layer of mace surrounding the pod.
The pods are removed from the fruit and the mace and then laid to dry in the sun for about 4-6 weeks and are considered fully dry once they sound like a rattle when shaken. They are then cut open and the spice is ready for use!
FLAVOR AND USAGE
The flavor profile of nutmeg is described as warm and nutty and is sometimes considered to have a bittersweet taste. The strong oils in nutmeg are key to maintaining its strong taste, so nutmeg is one of few spices that tastes just as good when bought pre-ground.
Nutmeg is best used to flavor desserts such as cake or custard. In fact, it is a very common ingredient in many cream-based recipes including cheese sauce, eggnog, or even moussaka. It is also a delicious fall flavor that pairs well with root vegetables, potatoes, or spinach.