Put Nutmeg in Your New Year

January 17, 2019

Originally written for Mélange Travel & Lifestyle Magazine. Re-printed with permission.

When you hear the word “nutmeg”, what do you think of? Sweet-smelling drinks and desserts? Deliciously earthy aromas floating through the kitchen? Maybe your tastebuds remember the slightly sharp, punchy taste after biting down on a ball of granules stuck together in your hot cereal. Likely. Probably unlikely to come to mind, however, is the vast array of other ways people enjoy nutmeg in and out of the kitchen. This lesser-known side emerged for me on a recent trip to Grenada (dubbed the Spice Isle for its abundance of nutmeg and mace, its crimson co-conspirator), and roaming through nutmeg factories, spice gardens and cocoa plantations revealed why Grenadians consider nutmeg their “black gold”. From seasoning to security systems to stroke remedies, here are 12 interesting ways to spice up your knowledge of this “black gold”, or “lady in the red petticoat”, one month at a time:

1. Apply NutMed, a locally-produced nutmeg-based cream/spray to sore muscles or inflamed joints. One of nutmeg’s best kept secrets is its muscle-relaxing property that provides gentle relief for backaches, nerve pain, arthritis, and injuries associated with swelling/inflammation.

2. Divert from the normal dusting on desserts or drinks. Nutmeg features in Grenadian-produced marinades, BBQ sauces, jams/jellies, syrup, rum punch, cold drinks, salad dressing, ice cream, and kuchela – an Indian-heritage chutney of grated nutmeg fruit flesh fried in mustard oil, cayenne pepper and Indian spices and sometimes used as a meat substitute by vegetarians.

The vast array of nutmeg products offered by De La Grenade Industries in Grenada: rum punch, syrup, jams, jellies, marinades, BBQ sauces, etc.

3. Aromatize the garden by placing newly harvested nutmeg shells in garden beds throughout.

4. In addition to producing a sweet garden fragrance, nutmeg shells help to control weeds and are often used as mulch.

5. Nutmeg shells form a sort of basic “security system” and cement alternative for Grenadians living in the countryside. Traditionally, poorer country people unable to afford cement would pave their walkways with nutmeg shells. The “crunching” sound underfoot would quickly betray the presence of unwanted visitors.

Nutmeg shells form the walkways to many Grenadian country houses.

6. Ladies, put the pills away! As a muscle and overall relaxer, nutmeg eases menstrual cramps and backache. Spray some NutMed on the back and stomach or add some nutmeg oil or powder to cinnamon tea for gentle relief.

7. If you are able to safely intervene while someone is suffering a stroke, locals say that placing a whole nutmeg seed under or a few drops of nutmeg oil on the tongue prevent it from becoming heavy and rolling back in the mouth.

Image result for nutmeg spray and cream
NutMed spray and cream can be used to remedy headaches, colds, menstrual cramps, muscle soreness, inflamed joints, and various stomach upsets.

8. To fight migraines, locals massage the temples with NutMed spray.  The alcohol in the spray speeds up the rate of absorption to bring faster relief.

9. A hot cup of anything before bedtime has calming effects, especially a dash of nutmeg in warm milk. The sedating effect of the spice promises a relaxing drift-off to sweet dreams.

10. Like many other plants found in Grenada, a tea of nutmeg can be made to fight colds. Drink some ground nutmeg and mace in hot water or inhale a NutMed-sprayed tissue to reduce a fever and clear the sinuses.

Mace and ground and whole nutmeg. A tea of nutmeg and mace can be used to fight colds.

11. More nutmeg tea and NutMed! Drink the tea, rub the spray on the abdomen, or add a pinch of nutmeg to some honey for constipation and stomach upsets such as gas, diarrhea, nausea, gastritis, and indigestion.

12. No, mace is not used in pepper spray, but it does give your tastebuds a sting! For a more “spirited” savory experience, try spiking your seasonings or favourite dish with ground mace. FUN FACT – Mace is used to make lipstick, nail polish and face powder and as a preservative in corned beef and other tin meats.

Mace, the fiery-red wrapping around the nutmeg shell, is used to spike seasonings and also in the production of certain cosmetic items.

It’s amazing how much potential lies hidden in this little brown pod — as if this weren’t enough, further reading reveals that nutmeg also features in oral health, detox and skin care remedies and that people even use it to…..get high??!! That’s another story, but it speaks to the spice’s remarkable versatility. From the Middle Ages to the 2000’s and from India to the West Indies, nutmeg continues to enrich life au natural. It seems that the little “lady” harbours plenty secrets beneath her “red petticoat”, and each new experience with her beckons me back to the Spice Isle to discover them all.

DID YOU KNOW that for centuries people have used nutmeg to get high? The myristicin and safrole found in nutmeg are used to make psychedelic drugs like ecstasy, and users report terrible hangover-like symptoms up to 12 hours after ingesting just a few teaspoons of it!

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