Nutmeg is the kernel of an edible fruit which grows on a large tropical tree known as a nutmeg tree. The fruit is split open to remove the nutmeg. The lacy aril (mace) is removed revealing a hard seed. The seed is dried, then cracked to remove the kernel (nutmeg). Nutmeg and mace are similar in fragrance, both being warming, sweetly spicy and faintly bitter to taste. They may or may not have aphrodisiac properties – it’s claimed they do, but you would need to eat an awful lot of nutmeg to test the theory.
Nutmeg is better grated fresh as its spicy fragrance diminishes shortly after grating. Although it can be grated on a box grater or microplane, small nutmeg graters do the job rather well.
A few grates give a spicy whiff to carrots, green beans and broccoli. It adds a spicy warmth to stuffings and terrines. It adds spicy sweetness to ham, and to pork, veal and chicken dishes. Nutmeg goes particularly well with parmesan cheese. It’s also added to rice puddings and custards. Mace, often sold as blades (broken pieces), is infused in milks and creams for sweet and savoury uses.