Dec 7, 2012

Nutmeg: The Spice of the Wealthy

I go to an Amish store to buy my spices.  Generally the prices there are very reasonable.  However, when I needed nutmeg just recently, I was astonished at the cost.  I looked at the unit price and it was $21.29 a pound.  Of course is it not as pricy as saffron, but it is still expensive.  Fortunately the spices at the store are sold in bulk, so, you get more for your money buying it this way.  

Courtesy of the Guardian Newspaper
 Nutmeg grows on trees and once harvested it could take up to two months for the fruit to dry. The nutmeg tree is evergreen with oblong egg shaped leaves and the fruit is light yellow with red and green markings. The nut is dried until the inner nut rattles, which is the edible nutmeg.

The British East India Company brought the nutmeg tree to Penang, Singapore, India, Sri Lanka, the West Indies, and Grenada (nutmeg is the national symbol for this country). In 1760, the price of nutmeg in London was 85 to 90 shillings per pound, a price kept artificially high by the Dutch voluntarily burning full warehouses of nutmegs in Amsterdam. The Dutch held control of the spice islands until World War II.  The poor were excluded from using this spice because of the cost. Luckily today anyone can afford a majority of the spices available or a similar substitute. 

Now that the holidays are upon us we think about all of the sweet dishes we can make with this nutmeg.  But, did you know that you can use this spice in savory dishes too?  I use a large pinch of it in the asparagus and leek quiche pictured above.  Here is the recipe if you would like to try it.