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Common Name

Latin Name Family Country/Origin
Myristica fragrans Myristicaceae The Spice Islands

Arab traders brought mace to Europe in the sixth century where it, together with nutmeg figured prominently in the spice trade. Mace is the outer covering of the nutmeg shell. Although they come from the same plant, nutmeg yields much more spice per unit than mace, making mace far more expensive.

At the height of the spice trade, the Dutch ordered the mass planting of mace trees. This led to confusion of course because mace comes from the Myristica fragrans, or 'nutmeg' tree. In the Middle Ages, one pound of mace was equal to three sheep.

Just like nutmeg, the Arabs had sole control over the mace trade until the 16th century, Although mace was introduced to Europe in the 11th century, it wasn't until the Portuguese took over the so-called spice islands in 1512 that the trade really began to flourish.

The Portuguese tightly held their monopoly, but were ousted by the Dutch in 1602. The Dutch made desperate attempts to prevent the spread of nutmeg trees to other islands and even resorted to burning them to increase demand and prices. Their efforts however, were futile as fruit bearing pigeons eventually spread the seeds to other islands, and the French smuggled seeds to Mauritius. By the 18th century, the British had control and began to cultivate the trees elsewhere.

Throughout the rule of the Dutch, Spice Island natives engaged them in battle in opposition of their presence. Inevitable, because they had inferior weaponry, many natives were killed.

Mace comes from the Myristica fragrans, a large evergreen tree that can reach heights of up to 60 feet. The tree begins producing fruit in its seventh year and may continue through to its 90th.

Fruits are collected using long poles with nets on the end and then the mace is separated from the seed. Mace is bright red, lacy, and net-like, and once removed from the seed is left to dry. Once dry, mace becomes a dull orange color and if kept whole is called a blade. It smells and tastes similar to nutmeg but is more concentrated and therefore stronger.

Purported Medicinal Qualities*

Like nutmeg, mace on its own can be toxic in large doses, however it can still be used liberally in cooking. To reap the health benefits of nutmeg, consume it as an ingredient in a dish, not in a concentrated form as doing so may cause hallucinations and/or vomiting.

Historically, mace has been used to:

  • Aid digestion
  • As a carminative
  • Stimulate appetite
  • Relieve nausea and vomiting
  • Treat muscle aches and pains - when essential oil applied topically

*Always check with your healthcare provider before consuming, inhaling or otherwise ingesting any non-prescription or prescription natural or homeopathic substance or pharmaceutical. is not recommending, suggesting, inferring or otherwise endorsing the use of any herb or spice as a medication.

Culinary/Suggested Use

Mace has a flavor very similar to nutmeg and can be used in the same way. It is has a stronger taste and aroma than nutmeg and will add a warm fragrance to many baked dishes, as well as savory dishes. Mace is said to give cake doughnuts their distinctive flavor.  Food for thought:

  • Add ground mace to homemade doughnuts
  • Add mace to soups and stews
  • Add mace to pasta and meat sauces
  • Add a dash of mace to cakes, cookies and muffins
  • Add mace to mashed potato, yams or squash
  • Add mace to any cheese sauce or béchamel
  • Add mace to sausage meat.

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