The nutmegs Myristica are a genus of evergreen trees indigenous to tropical southeast Asia and Australasia. They are important for two spices derived from the fruit, nutmeg and mace.
The most important species commercially is the Common or Fragrant Nutmeg Myristica fragrans, native to the Banda Islands of Indonesia; it is also grown in the Caribbean, especially in Grenada. Other species include Papuan Nutmeg M. argentea from New Guinea, and Bombay Nutmeg M. malabarica from India; both are used as adulterants of M. fragrans products.
Nutmeg is the actual seed of the tree, roughly egg-shaped and about 20 mm to 30 mm (1 inch) long and 15 mm to 18 mm (¾ inch) wide, and weighing between 5 g and 10 g (¼ ounce and ½ ounce) dried, while mace is the dried "lacy" reddish covering or arillus of the seed. This is the only tropical fruit that is the source of two different spices.
Nutmeg and mace have similar taste qualities, nutmeg having a slightly sweeter and mace a more delicate flavour. Mace is often preferred in light dishes for the bright orange, saffron-like hue it imparts. Nutmeg is a tasty addition to cheese sauces and is best grated fresh (see nutmeg grater). Nutmeg is a traditional ingredient in mulled cider, mulled wine, and eggnog.
In Indian cuisine, nutmeg is used in many sweet as well as savoury dishes (predominantly in Mughlai cuisine). It is known as Jaiphal in most parts of India and as Jatipatri and Jathi seed in Kerala. It may also be used in small quantities in garam masala. Ground nutmeg is also smoked in India.
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