How do you know you are nearing the island of Grenada at the southern end of the Windward Islands in the Caribbean? You can smell the spices in the wind, for Grenada is truly the Spice Island as one of the leading world producer’s of cinnamon, cloves, ginger, mace, allspice, orange and citrus peels and of course, nutmeg. Besides spices, Grenada is also a leading producer of coffee beans and cocoa, however it is the smell of the spices drifting in the trade winds that draw the sailors to the shores of the southern tropical island of Grenada.
Grenada is the second largest producer of nutmeg in the world after the Banda Islands, once home to the East Indies Trading Company in the 1600’s and where nutmeg was first founded. In the 1800’s nutmeg seeds were transported to Grenada where the crop flourished with trees over 70 feet tall. The nutmeg tree requires certain soil conditions, conditions which are exactly that of the soil on Grenada, and so nutmeg trees grow in abundance on this island, with their cool leafy canopy providing excellent shade for growing the cocao tree which thrives just under the nutmeg tree canopy.Nutmeg has been highly prized for centuries, and finding a better route to the Far East in search of the nutmeg was one of the incentives of Columbus to undertake the famous voyages of discovery. Once thought to have many curative powers, nutmeg is now usually found in cookery, and on the island of Grenada, expect the nutmeg to be grated into almost everything including rum punches, sweet and savory sauces, jams, and desserts. In fact a household without several nutmeg nuts and a grater is not a truly Grenadian home.
The nutmeg nut grows as the center of a fruit that resembles a small peach appearing after the tree flowers with small yellow fragrant flowers. Often the fruit peel is used in jams and jellies. The nut itself is in the center and is encased in a thin brown shell with a waxy red overlay called mace. The mace is separated from the brown nut shell, dried and also used as a spice with a stronger flavor than grated nutmeg. Break the brown shell and inside is the nutmeg nut, which is a solid nut and prized. Grating the nut produces fresh nutmeg powder, which has a very different flavor than the powdered nutmeg sold in canisters in the store and everyone should try true grated nutmeg grated fresh from the nut. Don’t leave Grenada without your own supply of nutmeg nuts, mace and of course a nutmeg grater to bring home your own bit of the taste and smell of the Caribbean Spice Island of Grenada.
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