A Tale of Two Spices: Nutmeg and Mace:
- East Indian tree widely cultivated in the tropics for its aromatic seed; source of two spices: nutmeg and mace
- hard aromatic seed of the nutmeg tree used as spice when grated or ground
Did you know that nutmeg and mace are actually siblings? These two are from the same fruit of the nutmeg tree Myristica frangrans. The nutmeg is the oval-shaped pit, which is the fruit, and mace is the bright red webbing that surrounds the shell of the pit. The mace is removed, dried and then ground into a coarse powder that turns a reddish color. The nutmeg can either be dried and left whole and packaged for grating, or dried and grated fresh.
The taste between nutmeg and mace is slightly different with mace being more pungent and spicier, similar to the combination of cinnamon and pepper. And nutmeg can be described as less intense than its sibling with a sweetness similar to cinnamon but more piquant. Both spices actually include some of the same oils that flavor pepper and cloves. Even though they have similar uses in recipes they are both rarely used together. I find that nutmeg does have a sweeter more delicate flavor and fragrance than mace. But you decide which one you prefer?
Nutmeg it is often used in baking recipes for cakes, cookies, and in savory dishes such as soups and stews, sausages, meats, soups, fruits and preserves. And let’s not forget about the popular holiday beverage of eggnog which just wouldn’t taste the same without a sprinkle of nutmeg.
In terms of using nutmeg with other spices, it works well with allspice, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cranberries, cumin, ginger, pepper, sugar, thyme, and vanilla. You can use nutmeg in savory dishes like asparagus, beans, cabbage, eggs, fish, lamb, onion, carrots, pumpkin, potatoes, sausage, seafood chowders, veal, and yams, as well as coffee drinks.
Mace is primarily used in baking and has long been the dominant flavor in doughnuts. It is often used in cakes, cookies, and in savory dishes just like its sibling, nutmeg. Mace Combines well with allspice, cinnamon, cloves, cranberries, cumin, ginger, sugar, and vanilla and tastes great in eggs, pumpkin, yams, potatoes, sausage, veal, and stuffings.
Celebrate the taste of fall spices with nutmeg and mace and try experimenting with either one.
For best nutmeg flavor, purchase whole nutmegs and grate them by using the smallest grater holes just before adding them to your recipe. A whole nutmeg yields at least two to three teaspoons of grated spice, and the best flavor of the nutmeg oil will soon evaporate, so use it quickly.
Mace spice nutrition facts
Mace spice is dry, outer aril that firmly enveloping around the nutmeg kernel. Nutmeg and mace indeed are two separate spice products of same nutmeg fruit. However, mace characteristically has higher concentration of certain essential oils and features refined yet intense aroma than nutmeg. For the same reasons, it commands special place in the kitchen spice box!
Mace as well as the nutmeg seeds were thought to have originated in the tropical rain forest of Indonesian Maluku Islands, also known as the spice Islands. Binomially, nutmeg is an evergreen belonging to Myristicaceae family, and known scientifically as Myristica fragrans. There are several species of nutmeg grown all over the world other than Myristica species, such as M. argentea, M. malabarica (Indian), and M. fatua. They are rather similar to M. fragrans in appearence, however, have inferior flavor and aroma.
Botanically, the nutmeg fruit, in fact, is a drupe like apricot. Once completely ripen, it splits through its bottom (basal) end to reveal a single, centrally situated oval shaped hard seed (kernel) known commercial as “nutmeg.” Closely adhering to this nutmeg kernel is crimson-red, lacy or thread like arils known as mace spice. This mace aril is then carefully peeled off the kernel surface by either hand or using a knife, and allowed to dry under shade for 3-4 days. Dried mace arils, which now appear amber in color are processed and graded before dispatched for sale.
Processing of mace spice
- fragrans tree yields up to three times in a season. Once harvested from the tree, its outer pulp or husk is removed and discarded. Just underneath the tough husk is the golden-brown color aril, known as “mace,” enveloping firmly around the nutmeg kernel. Mace is gently peeled off from the kernel surface, flattened into strips, dried, and sold either as whole “mace blades” or finely ground into powder. The nutmeg kernels are then dried under sun for several days to weeks. At larger commercial set-ups, this process is done rather more rapidly over a hot drier machine until the whole nutmeg rattles inside the shell.
Health benefits of mace spice
- Essentially employed as an aromatic agent, mace spice greatly enhances color, taste and flavor of foods. Nonetheless, it contains some of the anti-oxidant compounds essential oils, minerals, and vitamins.
- Mace features quite different nutritional profile than nutmeg has. It is less in calories, however, has more concentrations of essential oils, vitamin A, vitamin C, carotenes, iron, calcium,
- The spice contains fixed oil trimyristine, and many essential volatile oils, which gives a sweet aromatic flavor such as myristicin, elemicin, eugenol and safrole. These oils occur in higher concentration in mace than in nutmeg. The other less important volatile-oils are pinene, camphene, dipentene, cineole, linalool, sabinene, safrole, terpeniol.
- The active principles in ace spice have many therapeutic applications in many traditional medicines as anti-fungal, anti-depressant, aphrodisiac, digestive, and carminative functions.
- Mace has more vitamin-C content than nutmeg. 100 g mace spice has 21 mg against just 3 mg of nutmegs. Likewise, mace blades contain more riboflavin (vitamin B-2).
- Mace arils are rather excellent sources of vitamin-A. 100 g of mace provides 800 IU vitamin A, nearly nine times more compared to that in nutmeg.
- Mace arils contain more calcium, copper, iron and magnesium than nutmeg. 100 g of mace powder has 13.90 mg of iron when compared to just 3.04 mg of nutmeg. Manganese and copper are utilized by the human body as co-factors for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Iron is essential for red blood cell production and as a co-factor for cytochrome oxidases enzymes.
- As in nutmeg, mace extraction has also been employed in Chinese and Indian traditional medicines for treatment of illnesses related to the nervous and digestive systems. The compounds in this spice such as myristicin and elemicin have been found to have soothing as well as stimulant properties on brain.
- Nutmeg and mace-oil contains eugenol, which has been used in dentistry for toothache relief.
- The oil is also used as a local massage to reduce muscular pain and rheumatic pain of joints.
- Freshly prepared mace-decoction with honey has been employed to get relief from nausea, gastritis, and indigestion ailments.
See the table below for in depth analysis of nutrients:
Mace spice (Myristica fragrans), Ground,
Nutritional value per 100 g.
(Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||32.38 g||162%|
|Dietary Fiber||20.2 g||54%|
|Vitamin C||21 mg||35%|
Selection and storage
In the stores, one can buy whole mace, straight slivers known as mace blades, or ground powder packed inside air-sealed containers. Look for whole mace or its blades instead of powder since powdered mace shall lose its flavor rather quickly because of evaporation of essential oils. The other reason being, it oftentimes may be mixed with inferior quality mace species.
Once at home, store the whole mace spice and blades in an airtight container and place in cool, dark and dry place, where it can stay for several months. Ground mace, however, should be stored in well-sealed packs and used as quickly as possible.
Both nutmeg as well as mace spice employed widely in cooking recipes. Although, mace and nutmegs can be used interchangeably, mace has a pleasant yet more intense flavor than nutmeg, and gives light saffron color to the dishes it added to. Mace blades should be fished out before serving. Instead, they may seep in hot water and the extraction may be directly added to the recipes.
Here are some serving tips:
- Mace is particularly sought after in sweet dishes. It gives sweet, warm and pleasant flavor, especially to the bakery foods like pastries, donuts, cake, etc.
- In the Indian subcontinent where it is popular as javitri, found in an array of sweet and savory recipes.
- It also employed as one of the common ingredients in the spice mix, particularly in Indian garam masala powder, and Moroccan, rass-el-hanout.
- Its freshly ground powder is added to meat stews, bean stews, sauces, and soups (sup kambing).
- Consumption of nutmeg as well as mace spice in large doses may cause lack of concentration, sweating, palpitations, body pain and in severe case; hallucination and delirium.
- In very small doses, it may be used safely in pregnancy and lactation.
(Medical disclaimer: The information and reference guides on this website are intended solely for the general information for the reader. It is not to be used to diagnose health problems or for treatment purposes. It is not a substitute for medical care provided by a licensed and qualified health professional. Please consult your health care provider for any advice on medications.)