NUTMEG AND MACE
The nutmeg tree (Myristica fragrans) is native to
the Moluccas (known as the Spice Islands) in
East Indonesia. Nutmeg and mace are both
products of the fruit of this tree. The fruit is
soft and fleshy and similar to an apricot.
Nutmeg is the kernel of the seed, and mace is
the net-like crimson coloured leathery outer
growth (aril) that covers the shell of the seed.
The main countries of production are Indonesia,
Grenada, Sri Lanka, Trinidad, China and India.
There are two types of mace and nutmeg, West
Indian (from Grenada) and East Indian (from
Figure 1: Processed nutmeg and mace.
The flavour of mace is similar to that of
Photo: Practical Action / Neil Noble
nutmeg, but is more refined. Mace is much
more expensive than nutmeg. Inferior quality mace has very little aroma and is brittle. Both
spices are used for flavouring savoury and sweet foods and as a medicine.
The nutmeg tree is a large evergreen that grows to about 18 metres tall. It requires a deep, well-
drained loamy sandy soil and should be grown in the shade for the first two to three years. The
optimal growing temperature is between 20-30°C and the annual rainfall should be between
1500-2500mm. The tree starts to fruit about five to eight years after planting and will continue
to yield for about thirty years.
Half the trees are male and do not produce fruit. Unfortunately, the sex of the plants cannot be
identified until they are six to eight years old.
The usual method of propagation is by seed. Only uniformly dark brown seeds taken from fruits
that have split open should be used. Seeds that rattle will not germinate, as they are too dry.
The seeds have to be sown as soon as possible since viability is lost in eight to ten days. They
are planted with the shell.
The soil should consist of a mixture of well-composted manure, topsoil, and coarse sand. One
per cent rock phosphate can be added to the mixture. The seeds should be lightly buried so that
part of the shell is exposed, they should be watered and left in the shade to germinate.
Germination takes between four and eight weeks. The seedlings should remain in the shade for
six to eight months. Propagation should be from mother trees that are selected for their regular
bearing, high yields, large nuts and heavy mace. The quantitative criteria for selecting mother
trees are as follows:
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