Mace (Myristica fragrans)
Mace and nutmeg come from different parts of the fruit from nutmeg trees. The inner seed is made into nutmeg while the lacy covering or aril is made into mace.
Mace is warm with a lemon-like sweetness however isn’t as sweet as nutmeg.
Mace has nutmeg’s aromatic, sweet, warm aroma though is slightly stronger with hints of cloves and pepper.
Mace is sold as whole dried blades or ground and as opposed to nutmeg, which is most commonly used in sweet dishes, mace is used mainly in savoury dishes. Mace works wonderfully in milk-based sauces such as béchamel and onion sauce and is used to make pickles and chutneys. Mace loves shellfish, cream cheese, cabbage, chicken, spinach, sweet potato and veal and combines well with cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, ginger, nutmeg, paprika, pepper and thyme.
The nutmeg tree is a large tree which grows to around 18 metres and is native to the Moluccas, Indonesia. The trees take 15-20 years before they bear the apricot sized fruits. The ripe fruit is collected and the outer skin and white flesh are removed. Mace, which is the lacy, bright coloured scarlet aril that covers the seed is removed. The aril is then pressed flat and allowed to dry for a few hours and then stored in the dark for around 4 months during which time it turns a deep orange-yellow colour.
The nutmeg tree was discovered in Indonesia’s Spice Islands by the Portuguese who kept the supply a close secret. The Portuguese were then driven out of the Spice Islands by the Dutch who also guarded the supply closely by restricting the cultivation to only two islands, driving up the price of the commodity. The English then captured the Spice Islands in 1796 and introduced nutmeg trees to Penang, Singapore, Sri Landa, Sumatra and the West Indies. Today Grenada in Indonesia is the largest producer, supplying a third of the world’s supply.
In Southeast Asia and China, mace is used more for its medicinal qualities than in cooking. It has been used by herbalists to aid in the relief of toothaches, muscular pain, nausea and for healing of the nervous and digestive systems.
Facts about Mace
Ground mace keeps it flavour well, longer than most ground spices.
I don’t have any mace, can I use nutmeg instead?
Yes, you can use nutmeg instead of mace bearing in mind that nutmeg is a little sweeter. Nutmeg is normally easier to find and more widely used as it is cheaper than mace.