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Volume I
December 11, 2002


         Talk about versatility! The tropical tree that produces nutmeg also brings forth the spice mace and a brown wrinkled oval fruit that is sometimes used for jam. When the peach-like fruit ripens, it splits open to reveal a red membrane-covered nutlike seed. The fruit is often discarded, but the seed is saved and dried. The red membrane is then scraped off and packaged as mace, while the remaining kernel is packaged or ground for that eggnog standby-nutmeg.

During the "spice wars" of the middle ages, the Dutch took control over nutmeg importation from the Portuguese, who'd discovered nutmeg in the Moluccas of Indonesia and had profited on its export for almost a century. Determined to keep a monopoly on the nutmeg, the Dutch only allowed the trees to grow on islands they could easily guard with their forces. In addition, they limed each kernel that left the islands to ensure its sterilization and to prevent ambitious gardeners from growing their own trees. The death penalty struck down on anyone caught smuggling this moneymaker. Despite their zealous efforts, the Dutchmen were hoodwinked by a certain band of successful thieves-the birds of the island. In their daily flights, birds picked up nutmegs and dropped them onto nearby islands and other places outside of Dutch control.

Perhaps we have the birds to thank, then, that nutmeg no longer grows on just a few islands in the Bandu Sea. Produced in the tropical areas of the West Indies, Brazil, Columbia, and Central America, it is now a standby in kitchens across the planet, instead of only in those patroned by the wealthy.

You can grate whole nutmeg seeds on the fine points of your cheese grater for a sensational flavor that many connoisseurs find superior to the ground nutmeg available on the grocer's shelf. Mostly used in sweet dishes (rice pudding) or breads (zucchini), a dash also complements béchamel (white or cheese) sauce and cream based soups, bringing out a delicate, delicious flavor and leaving guests wondering what your secret is.

Sprinkle it over a pork roast along with salt and pepper or toss it into meatballs. The aroma will bring hungry people to your table the instant you say, "It's ready!" And of course vegetables perk up and tempt tastebuds when seasoned with a bit of this versatile spice. Try it on squash or yams, over buttered cauliflower or green beans. Italian cooks love it on spinach, as well as in their pasta dishes.

See how versatile it is? Historically, it's been used in Chinese and Indian medicine. Touted to stimulate the cardiovascular system, promote concentration, and reduce joint swelling, I'm clueless as to whether it really does these things or not. But, once you start baking with nutmeg, your family will probably come running, stimulating their cardio, and they'll truly concentrate on whatever you're removing from the oven. So, go give your family a health benefit with nutmeg!

         * DVO welcomes your kitchen hints and cooking or nutrition questions! Email us and we'll post your hints and Q/A's in upcoming newsletters! *

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The Traditional Family Tie

Catchy Sayings for Quick Kitchen Gifts
Jiffy Holiday Eggnog
"Built-In" Vegetable Dressing

The Night before Christmas for Moms
Christmas Lights...
New Euro-English
Dam Construction

Festive Family Traditions

Using Multiple CD's

Stout (Guinness) Cheddar Soup
1000 Island Dressing
Pound Cake from a Mix

We Knead Your Recipes
The TRUE Meaning of Christmas

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