I have been telling you the various places my dad and I saw when we took a day tour with Cutty (phone #473-407-5153) on the island of Grenada. We had a great time with Cutty and he loves showing off the plants of his island, but it was the nutmeg trees and processing center I was most curious about.
Nutmeg is native to the Banda Islands in Indonesia on the other side of the world. At one time the spice was so valuable the Dutch traded New York City for the rights to the Banda Islands. Since that time the trees have been successfully transferred elsewhere, but none as well as Grenada who controls 20% of world production (Indonesia still has 75%). It is so important to Grenada that the island is called the Spice Island and the nutmeg is on the national flag.
At the nutmeg factory we learned that the nutmeg tree can start producing within 9 years, but takes 20 to reach full production. The tree grows a yellow fruit that splits open when it is ripe. Inside there is a nut surrounded by a hard, brown shell and this is wrapped in a latticework of red mace. Thus, as Cutty says, it is a “boat with a red petticoat”.
The fruit can be used to make jam of cooked with sugar to make desserts. The mace is taken off and dried for 10-14 days, while the nutmeg itself is dried over 6-8 weeks until it rattles inside the hard shell. Inside the shell it can keep for up to 10 years until you are ready to use it. At that time you hit the shell hard to break it and grate the nut inside.
It is a very labor intensive process, but nutmeg is so good. There is no wonder it, mace, and cloves were the most costly spices at one time. All this talk has made my mouth water. I think it is time to go bake some desserts from Cooking on the Guiding Light cookbook. 🙂