UPDATED ON MARCH 21, 2019
By now, you and I are very familiar with the common herbs and spices in our kitchen and what we can do with them. How about those less common? For this instance, Mace. You may know mace as the “mace spice” but I knew it by a different name – nutmeg “flower”. This was the name I’ve been told since young. I may have misunderstood or simply didn’t bother to find out. Well, I was just a kid then. Now, I found out that it actually comes from the nutmeg fruit itself. Let’s find out what is mace for and how can you use it for cooking? Does it have nutritional value benefiting your health? You must read on…
The Nutmeg Fruit
A nutmeg fruit produces TWO spices from ONE seed! Isn’t it amazing?
The fruit is from a tropical evergreen tree, Myristica fragrans, originally from the Maluku Islands also known as the Spice Islands in Indonesia but currently growing all over the tropics. However, Grenada in the Caribbean now grows almost a third of the world’s crop. The nutmeg tree takes 7 – 9 years to mature but have a long productivity period of up to 90 years, and can reach 66 feet in height.
The fruit is similar to an apricot in shape. When it ripens, it splits open through its bottom, revealing the hard-shelled seed covered by a waxy red netting. This lacy netting, also called aril is mace, while the kernel within the shell is nutmeg.
After the aril is removed from the seed, it is pressed flat and dried. The resulting mace pieces are called blades.
Both the nutmeg and mace are similar in aroma and taste - rich, fresh and warm but nutmeg smells sweet with a hint of clove and a deeper, bittersweet flavour. The aroma of mace is stronger but gives a lively, floral character and a taste of lemony sweetness.
Nutmeg is used in both sweet and savoury dishes. It goes very well in meat stews. As for sweets, you could easily associate nutmeg with your fruit pies, puddings and eggnog among others.
While both can be used interchangeably, mace has a more pleasant flavour and gives a light saffron colour to the dishes.
Let’s save the nutmeg spice for another day. For now, you will get to know
What is Mace for
Like nutmeg, mace can be used in sweet dishes and adding it to savoury dishes will certainly elevate the flavour. Still could not imagine its flavour? Think of mace as the combination of nutmeg with coriander, and a touched of citrus with cinnamon. It is a complex flavour but subtle. Interesting? Yes, no?
A small amount of mace will uplift many recipes, adding a touch of fragrance without imposing too much.
Use mace for flavouring meat dishes - chicken, veal, lamb, pork or fish.
It is a good addition to ⇒ stews, curries, savoury sauces, clear or creamy soup and soufflé.
You must try adding some to ⇒ mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes. It creates an interesting side dish.
Be careful though, the flavour can become bitter if cooked too long. It is best to add mace toward the end of cooking.
One mace blade is enough to flavour a dish of four to six portions. Always remember to remove the mace blades before serving. This reminds me of the Bay Leaves.
In baking and desserts
Of course, mace works very well in desserts.
It pairs wonderfully with all kind of fruits ⇒ especially fragrant fruits like peaches and raspberries.
Not forgetting the ⇒ puddings and custards.
For your next baking or dessert making day, you may consider replacing nutmeg with mace. It gives you a lighter touch, not overpowering other ingredients. Find out for yourself how wonderful the flavour is.
Another way to use mace is adding a little to your beverage – chocolate drinks and tropical punch. Yes, give it a bit of punch – spice it up!
Mace Blades or Ground
Ground mace is more commonly available and cheaper too. It keeps its flavour fairly well, better than most ground spices. Mixed spice and the garam masala, an Indian spice mix are blends made from a combination of spices which include mace.
Mace blades keep very well in an airtight container and you can be pop it into a coffee grinder to easily grind them as and when you need them.
Ground mace is easier to use but its quality will deteriorate faster. Depending on how frequent your usage is, you may buy ground mace for ease of use or buy mace blades to grind in batches.
One teaspoon of ground mace is equal to one tablespoon of mace blades.
Should you substitute it with nutmeg, the amount remains the same – a pinch for a pinch. However, the flavour will be affected and you may need to taste and adjust.
Other alternatives include ginger but use only a small amount due to its potency.
Allspice will do the job of mimicking the flavour of mace too.
Similarly, cinnamon with its warm sweetness does the same.
What is the Health Benefits of Mace
The nutritional value of mace is quite different from nutmeg but impressive. Compared to nutmeg, it is less in calories but a higher content of Vitamin C.
Other notable vitamins and minerals found in mace are Vitamin A and B, iron, calcium, copper and magnesium.
Also, mace has high concentrations of essential oils, dietary fibre and antioxidants.
Further therapeutic properties include anti-fungal, antidepressant, carminative and aphrodisiac.
With these potent components, mace will surely benefit your health in many ways. However, use it with care and responsibly.
Caution: High consumption of mace, as well as nutmeg, can cause sweating, palpitations, headache and body pain. In severe cases, gastrointestinal distress and potential psychoactive effects. Extreme caution needed when consumed during pregnancy and lactation.
Here are 7 Health Benefits of Mace
Healthy Digestive System
Mace helps in keeping your digestive system healthy. High in fibre, it is good for regulating bowel movements. Hence, relieve the discomfort of constipation, bloating and gas related problems.
You may also use this spice to remedy nausea and diarrhoea.
Immune System Booster
Vitamin C is the biggest immune system boosters of all. The high level of Vitamin C in mace can boost your immune system against infections and foreign pathogen.
Promotes Blood Circulation
Iron and magnesium, both found in mace are essential for healthy blood vessels. Improved vein circulation system and reduced constriction of blood flow can help prevent hypertension and other life-threatening conditions.
Besides, it keeps your skin glowing and healthy hair too. Wouldn’t you want that?
Suffering from a loss of appetite? Spice up your diet with a bit of mace. The pleasant, delicate aroma and taste will surely make your meal more appealing and delectable.
Besides, the carminative properties of mace help reduce bloating and flatulence, thus improving your appetite.
Click here to find out how and which common cooking herbs and spices help reduce stomach bloating.
Adding a bit of this spice to your diet can reduce your stress and anxiety.
There are other common cooking herbs and spices that can help do the same. Click here to read more.
When you feel calm and serene, naturally you will be able to sleep well.
Having quality sleep helps you to stay focus on your job or any tasks at hand and increases your memory too.
Eugenol, another compound found in this spice helps to relieve toothaches and other forms of dental pain.
Furthermore, it also helps to freshen your breath.
Reduces Inflammation and Pain
Mace is well known for its anti-inflammatory properties. When applied externally, it soothes inflammation and eliminates pain.
Traditionally, mace has been used for hundreds of years in Chinese medicine. The Chinese used this spice to treat inflammation and pain such as aching joints, muscle pain, arthritis, bruises and sores.
My Personal Experience with Mace & Nutmeg
My childhood memory of using mace oil is mostly for bruises and sprained muscle, especially for the ankle and wrist. Unlike children of nowadays, mostly confined in their own home or space with a digital device in hand, I wandered the neighbourhood on a bicycle. Minor accidents, fallen with bruises and sprains are quite common.
Grandma would be ever ready with her nutmeg mace oil. If my memory serves me right, the remedy is actually mace infused alcohol. And it really works! Too bad and sad, I never got to know the recipe.
A favourite snack of mine is the candied and pickled nutmeg. I just can’t seem to stop eating once started.
It was only in recent years that I started to drink the nutmeg juice served at some coffee shop around Penang Island, Malaysia, my home country. On a hot sunny day, drinking it cold with ice cubes is truly a thirst-quenching refreshing drink. At night, I strongly recommend drinking it warm or hot. It is extremely warm and soothing, your bedtime made calm and easy.
A couple of months ago, I managed to catch a Food TV series – Confucius was a Foodie hosted by Canadian celebrity chef Christine Cushing. In one of the episodes, it featured her visit to a nutmeg farm in Penang. Funny I have never visited one.
When did I find out about mace? It was this Food TV series that got my attention. Just before that moment, I was writing about Mixed Spice vs Allspice. Found out that I can make my own Mixed Spice and one of the spices needed was mace. At that point, I asked – What is Mace? Now, you and I have the answer. How good is this?
The End of Mace – Not Really
Knowing what is mace for in cooking and baking, coupled with its health benefits, would you not want to try using this amazing spice? It may not be as common as nutmeg and pricier too but let’s make cooking more interesting – try mace! I believe it is worth a spot on your spice rack. Use it to enliven your cooking and give yourself a healthy boost.
Again, I wish to remind you not to overdose with mace or nutmeg. Too much of anything is not a good thing. Moderation is the best.
Now, go on and check out some recipes using mace. If you have any recipes using nutmeg, try substitute with mace.
I love coffee with a dash of cinnamon. How about mace? Why don’t you give it a try and let me know how you feel.
Where to buy mace?
Share your Experience or Leave a Comment
I have shared mine. Now it is your turn. Please share your experience with mace in the comments section below or leave a comment. Have you known mace all this while or just like me, always looking out for powerful herbs and spices? I look forward to reading yours.
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From the Corner of My Home – Spice Up Your Life with Herbs and Spices
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