Mace spice is a dried, outer aril, enveloping firmly around the nutmeg kernel. Nutmeg kernel and mace arils indeed are two separate spice products of same nutmeg fruit. However, spice-mace has characteristically composed higher concentration of certain essential oils and features refined, yet more intense aroma than nutmeg. For the same reasons, it commands a higher price and special place in the kitchen spice box!
Mace, as well as the nutmeg seeds, were thought to have originated in the tropical rainforest of the Indonesian Maluku Islands, also known as the "Spice Islands." Binomially, nutmeg is evergreen tree belonging to Myristicaceae family and scientifically called as Myristica fragrans. There are several species of nutmeg grown all over the world other than Myristica species, such as M. argentea, M. malabarica (Indian), and M. fatua. They are rather similar to M. fragrans in appearance, however, inferior to in flavor and aroma.
|Note crimson-red color dried mace spice.|
Botanically, the nutmeg fruit, in fact, is a drupe-like apricot. Once completely ripen, it splits open through its bottom (basal) end to reveal a single, centrally situated oval shaped hard seed (kernel) known commercially as the “nutmeg.” Adhering closely to this nutmeg kernel is crimson-red, lacy or thread like arils known as mace spice. This mace aril is then carefully peeled off nutmeng kernel; either by hand or using a knife. It allowed to dry under the shade for 3-4 days. Dried mace arils, which now attained amber color are then processed and graded before being dispatched to the market.
|Raw nutmeg fruit. Note for central seed and "lacy" mace. (Photo by-giselleai)|
M. fragrans tree yields nutmeg fruits up to three times in a season. Once harvested from the tree, its outer pulp or husk is removed and discarded. Just underneath the tough hull is the golden-brown color aril, known as "mace," enveloping firmly around the nutmeg kernel. Mace is gently peeled off from the kernel surface, flattened into strips, dried, and sold either as whole "mace blades" or finely ground into powder. The nutmeg kernels are then dried under the sun for several days to weeks. At larger commercial set-ups, this process is carried out rather more quickly over a hot dryer machine until the whole nutmeg rattles inside the shell.
Essentially employed as an aromatic agent; mace spice significantly enhances color, taste, and flavor of foods. Besides, it contains some of the health benefiting antioxidant compounds, essential oils, minerals, and vitamins.
The spice contains fixed oil trimyristin, and many essential volatile oils, which gives a sweet aromatic flavor such as myristicin, elemicin, eugenol and safrole. These oils occur in higher concentration in mace than in nutmeg. The other less important volatile oils are pinene, camphene, di-pentene, cineole, linalool, sabinene, safrole, terpeneol.
The active principles in mace spice have many therapeutic applications in many traditional medicines as anti-fungal, anti-depressant, aphrodisiac, digestive, and carminative functions.
Mace has more vitamin-C content than nutmeg. 100 g mace spice has 21 mg against just 3 mg of nutmegs. Likewise, mace blades contain more riboflavin (vitamin B-2).
Mace arils are rather excellent sources of vitamin-A. 100 g of mace provides 800 IU vitamin-A, nearly nine times more than that in nutmeg.
Mace arils contain more calcium, copper, iron and magnesium than nutmeg. 100 g of mace powder has 13.90 mg of iron when compared to just 3.04 mg of nutmeg. The human body utilizes manganese and copper as co-factors for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Iron is essential for red blood cell production and as a co-factor for cytochrome oxidases enzymes.
In the stores, one can buy whole mace, straight slivers known as mace blades, or ground powder packed inside air-sealed containers. Look for whole mace or its blades instead of powder since powdered mace shall lose its flavor rather quickly because of evaporation of essential oils. The other reason being, it oftentimes may be mixed with inferior quality mace species.
Once at home, store the whole mace spice and blades in an airtight container and place in a cool, dark and dry place where it can stay fresh for several months. Ground mace, however, should be stored in well-sealed packs and used as quickly as possible.
Both nutmegs, as well as mace spice, employed widely in the recipes. Although mace and nutmegs can be used interchangeably, mace has a pleasant yet more intense flavor than nutmeg and gives light saffron color to the dishes. Mace blades should be fished out before serving. Instead, they may seep into hot water, and the extraction may be directly added to the recipes.
Here are some serving tips:
Mace is sought after, particularly, in sweet dishes. It gives sweet, warm and pleasant flavor, especially to the bakery foods like pastries, donuts, cake, etc.
In the Indian subcontinent where it is popular as javitri, found in an array of sweet and savory recipes.
It also employed as one of the common ingredients in the spice mix, particularly in Indian garam masala powder, and Moroccan, rass-el-hanout.
Its freshly ground powder is added to meat stews, bean stews, sauces, and soups (sup kambing).
Consumption of large amounts of nutmeg and mace spice may cause sweating, palpitations, headache, body pain and in the severe cases, hallucination and delirium.
(Medical Disclaimer: The information and reference guides on this website are intended solely for the general information for the reader. It is not to be used to diagnose health problems or for treatment purposes. It is not a substitute for medical care provided by a licensed and qualified health professional. Please consult your health care provider for any advice on medications.)
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5. Cooking with herbs and spices- by Andi Clevely- page 310-311