Nutmeg in our A-Z - Cooking Index
Nutmegs are the seeds of the Myristica tree and are widely used in cooking as a spice. The nutmeg seed is encased in a yellow fruit, similar in size to a peach, and within the fruit there is a red coloured casing surrounding the nutmeg which is called mace.
Nutmeg can be bought either whole or ground and will be named either West Indian or East Indian depending on its source. The advantage of whole nuts is that they retain their flavor, whilst ground nutmeg often loses its flavor very quickly. You can buy a nutmeg grinder specifically for grinding the whole nuts.
Nutmeg is a slightly sweet spice and is especially used in cream sauces and cheese sauces in European cooking. It is particularly good added to creamed spinach. Nutmeg is also one of the main ingredients for mulled wines and mulled ciders.
Nutmeg is known as jaiphal in India where it is used almost exclusively to flavor desserts and sweet dishes.
Nutmeg is renowned for its supposed magical powers and in the middle ages it was used to ward of a variety of different evils. It is used widely in perfumes and soaps as an essential oil.
Nutmegs are not technically nuts, so those with nut allergies should be safe. The British Anaphylaxis Campaign says “there is no hard evidence to suggest that people with nut allergy are particularly at risk from nutmeg” but does warn that there is a very small possibility that those with an allergy to almonds may have problems with nutmeg.