Wrapping of nut (nutmeg)
Dried and powdered
Volatile oil containing myristicin
Mace is the lacy wrapping that covers nutmeg when it's plucked from the tree. Its flavor is similar to nutmeg, but slightly more bitter. It's usually sold already ground, but you can sometimes find blades of mace that you can grind yourself. Mace is a spice made from the gum-like reddish substance that cradles the seed of Myristica fragrans, an evergreen species of tree native to Indonesia.
This seed, or nut, is better known to most people as nutmeg. Ground mace has a milder flavor than nutmeg, but is bolder in color.The spice is widely used to flavor foods and beverages in Asian, Indonesian and Middle Eastern cuisines. The nutmeg tree
is native to Indonesia. It grows as high as 40 feet and is an evergreen tree.
It has a strong aroma and yellow flowers that adorn the limbs. It takes
almost 10 years for the tree to bear viable fruit. The fruit of the tree is
picked when it ripens. It is then separated into nutmeg seeds and mace.
Safety: Pregnant women should not use mace. Don't take more than 3 g
of mace per day. Consult your health care provider before beginning use
of any herb.
Mace has a more a more delicate flavor than the nut: nutmeg. Mace is often preferred in light dishes for the bright orange, saffron-like hue it imparts.
You cannot enter into a discussion about mace without mentioning nutmeg. Why? Because their origins are so intertwined. Myristica fragrans, the nutmeg tree, is the only plant that gives us two spices. Mace is the outer covering, or aril, of the nutmeg in
Lacy in appearance, mace is a bright red skin that must be removed by hand or knife when the nutmeg is harvested. The mace is flattened out and left to dry in the sun for 10-14 days, although some producers may use mechanical dryers. The intense aroma of the spice develops during this curing process and the color fades to a rusty orange.
Indonesia and Grenada are the world's largest suppliers of mace. The tall, slow growing trees are native to Indonesia's Moluccas Island. The first crop of nutmeg and mace will not appear until the trees are at least seven years old. One productive acre will yield 500 pounds of nutmeg but only 75 pounds of mace.
This naturally makes mace more valuable than nutmeg. Europeans have enjoyed the two spices since Arab traders introduced them in the sixth century A.D. Records show that in fourteenth century England one pound of mace was worth three sheep.
Mace is a bit more delicate in flavor than nutmeg but they can be used interchangeably. The warm, spicy-sweet taste is a frequent seasoning for baked goods and desserts. Some say mace is what makes doughnuts taste like doughnuts. Mace will enhance meats, stews and sauces as well.
The flattened and dried pieces of mace are called "blades." Some suppliers will sell these blades but it is more common for mace to be marketed as a ground product. The blades are an excellent way to flavor a clear soup or other recipes where a powdered seasoning might be unattractive. Like a bay leaf, the mace blade would be removed before serving.
A common misconception is that mace the spice can be used as a weapon. The Mace we associate with personal protection is a trade name for a company that sells tear gas and pepper sprays, not the spice itself. (A thank you to Sandra Bowens for her treatise on Mace)