I fell in love with Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) when I was in Belize, last November. On an off-day from researching jungle plants, I found a spice farm north of Punta Gorda. (I know, I know… on an “off-day” I sought out more plants… like a fucking dork.) After seeing a series of small green signs posted on stakes along the highway that read, “Spice Farm” – I flipped-a-bitch and drove down a little dirt road to a thriving, gorgeous property. Touring the farm, we strolled past rows of staked Vanilla Planifolia, clusters of Cardamom, Citrus groves, and double-dug beds of Pineapple Sage and Lemon Grass. After a short distance we came across a lovely, small grove of Nutmeg trees.
From afar, the trees look pretty basic: average green, egg-shaped leaves not unlike Citrus, an unremarkable trunk and branch spread with white flowers at the start of the growing season. But when you get closer, you notice it’s balanced, simple beauty. I walked up to the small grove of trees and thought, “Huh. I don’t know what this is, but it would look nice in a front yard.” Just an unassuming little guy. Nutmeg, a fragrant evergreen tree, is known for two important spices derived from the fruit: nutmeg and mace.
The farm worker snatched a low growing pod from the branch and opened it up for me to examine – I was instantly smitten. The outer shell or husk is thick and looks very similar to an undeveloped lemon. The inner skin that envelops the actual seed flesh was tan in color and resembled strips of woven baskets – for lack of a a better analogy. Mace is the aril (inner skin I was referring to) surrounding the nutmeg seed. This aril is edible and helps encourage animals to eat and carry the seed. The Nutmeg seed has all kinds of culinary and medicine uses – including, reportedly being (in very large doses… what isn’t hallucinogenic in very large doses?) psychoactive.
For more on this plant and other jungle botanicals… look out for my book (coming soon!), Sacred Plants.