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, mace characteristically compose higher concentration of certain essential oils and features refined yet intense aroma than nutmeg. For the same reasons, it commands 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 rain forest of Indonesian Maluku Islands, also known as the spice Islands. Binomially, nutmeg is evergreen tree belonging to Myristicaceae family, and known scientifically 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 appearence, 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 its kernel surface either by hand or using a knife, and allowed to dry under shade for 3-4 days. Dried mace arils, which now appear amber in color are then processed and graded before being dispatched for sale.
|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 husk 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 sun for several days to weeks. At larger commercial set-ups, this process is carried out rather more quickly over a hot drier machine until the whole nutmeg rattles inside the shell.
Essentially employed as an aromatic agent, mace spice greatly enhances color, taste and flavor of foods. Nonetheless, it contains some of the anti-oxidant compounds, essential oils, minerals, and vitamins.
The spice contains fixed oil trimyristine, 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, dipentene, cineole, linalool, sabinene, safrole, terpeniol.
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 compared to 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. Manganese and copper are utilized by the human body 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 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 nutmeg 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 it added to. Mace blades should be fished out before serving. Instead, they may seep in hot water and the extraction may be directly added to the recipes.
Here are some serving tips:
Mace is particularly sought after 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 nutmeg as well as mace spice in large doses may cause lack of concentration, sweating, palpitations, body pain and in severe case; 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