Processing of nutmeg & mace
(Macassar Nutmeg, Papua Nutmeg) from New Guinea and M. malabarica (Bombay Nutmeg, Wild
Nutmeg) from South India. The latter lacks fragrance, while the former has a very pungent
aroma. Both adulterants can be identified by the shape of their seeds: true Banda nutmegs are
shaped like an egg while the two other species have seeds that are more acorn shaped than egg
Nutmeg and mace are both used to flavour foods and beverages. They are used in a variety of
sweet and savoury dishes.
Nutmeg and mace both contain essential oils, which can be extracted. Broken nutmeg pieces
are often used for the extraction of essential oils. Around four per cent of the essential oil within
nutmeg is poisonous and as such it should be used sparingly.
Nutmeg essential oil can be prepared by distillation. The nutmeg should be turned into a coarse
powder and then transferred to the still immediately. Repeated distillation, achieved by pouring
the distillation liquid over the nutmeg powder, may be necessary. During the process exposure
to the vapours should be kept to a minimum due to the toxic nature of some of the essential oils.
Oil extraction, usually by hot manual pressing, produces nutmeg butter (also known as concrete
or expressed oil). The butter is a highly aromatic, orange coloured fat which can then be
processed into ointments and perfumes. This can be a good use of crop rejects.
Nutmeg and mace oleoresins are extracted from the plant using organic solvents. They are
produced for commercial flavourings and perfumes.
Nutmeg and mace both have medicinal properties and can be used to treat a number of
ailments, including as a digestive aid, to treat flatulence, diarrhoea and vomiting.
References and further reading
Drying of Foods Practical Action Technical Brief
Spice Processing Practical Action Technical Brief
Food Labelling Practical Action Technical Brief
Drying selection of Practical Action Technical Briefs
Herbs and Spices selection of Practical Action Technical Briefs
Drying UNIFEM Practical Action Publishing 1995
Production, Handling And Processing of Nutmeg and Mace and Their Culinary Uses, Food
and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy (1995).
Minor Oil Crops Part l, ll, & lll, FAO Agricultural Service Bulletin 94 (1992).
Nutmeg: Cultivation and Processing. The Department of Minor Export Crops, Ministry of
Agricultural Development and Research, Sri Lanka (1981).
Spices Volume 1, Tropical Agriculture Series. Pursglove J W, Brown, E G, Green, C L and
Robbins S R J, Longman Publishing (1981).
Gernot Katzer’s Spice Pages, Nutmeg and Mace (Myristica fragrans Houtt.)