Herbs & Spices
Season for Nutmeg Available Year-Round
Nutmeg is a mystical spice with powers we both harness (gastronomically speaking) and must be wary of. For if you ingest too much of this magical seed, it might be the worst trip of your life, lasting days, with tons of unsavory side effects. But just a dash here and a sprinkle there, and nutmeg adds a mildly sweet and bitter, not-to-be-missed dimension to all manner of dishes. The tree that produces nutmeg also produces mace - both spices come from the tree's fruit, which splits into a red outer membrane (mace) and an inner brown seed (nutmeg). Nutmeg is both more pungent and sweeter than its brother, mace.
How to Buy and Store Nutmeg
Once ground, nutmeg will quickly lose its fragrance and flavor, so you are best off buying it in its whole form and grinding as you go - that is unless you're buying a mix like garam masala or pumpkin pie. Either way, its freshness can be maintained longer if stored in an airtight container that is away from heat and moisture which will hasten its loss of flavor and aroma. Freezing or refrigerating will do more harm than good. Like all herbs, your nutmeg will keep for six months.
How to Cook Nutmeg
The sweet but slightly bitter flavor profile of nutmeg adds character to all kinds of recipes, keeping in mind that a little goes a long. It can be sprinkled lightly over savory dishes like roasted veggies and fish or chicken, or sweet delights like whipped cream, custard and eggnog. Ground Nutmeg is an ideal baking spice and is especially complimentary in sweet breads, cakes, muffins and cookies. It complements egg and cheese dishes well with many cheeses, and traditionally flavors Italian mortadella sausages, Scottish haggis and Middle Eastern lamb dishes, as well as gracing many herb blends.
Note: One whole nutmeg grated equals 2 to 3 teaspoons of ground nutmeg.
Health Benefits of Nutmeg
Though nutmeg has been shown to have many health benefits, only so in small doses, as it becomes highly toxin once overdone. Used in small dosages nutmeg can help lower blood pressure and sooth a stomach ache as well as stop diarrhea and (let us reiterate: in low doses) help to detoxify the body. It's essential oil is said to contain many of its healing powers (and dangerous ones), and can stimulate the brain, relieving stress and revving up mental activity. Don't be too wary of this spice: When just used in the kitchen as called for in recipes, your not likely to overdo it - or even come close.
Why Buy Natural and Organic Nutmeg
Traditionally, nutmeg was naturally fumigated with lime. But nowadays, you're conventional nutmeg has most likely been sterilized with harmful chemicals (that have been banned in Europe) - or even irradiated, which creates potentially toxic and carcinogenic by-products. By choosing certified organic nutmeg, you can ensure pesticide residues and toxins haven't infiltrated your spice. Plus, you'll be supporting sustainable farming practices.