Mace essential oil is a very potent combination of wonderful compounds that elevate the goodness of the oil, notches higher. The oil is highly antiseptic in nature and is often recommended for preparing healthy and healing recipes.
It is thought that the ancients knew nutmeg and mace, but by the twelfth century, the spices had definitely reached the Mediterranean, brought by Arab traders. Not long after, the School of Salerno recorded the poisonous effect of using too much nutmeg; they praised its cardiac effects, but recorded haemorrhage and fatalities if used in large doses. ‘Unica nux prodest, nocet altera, tertia necat’ (One nut is good, another is less good, the third kills).
For years, both spices were the monopoly of first the Portuguese and then the Dutch, until Pierre Poivre smuggled some young trees from the Spice Islands. When the Moluccas were part of the British Empire, trees were transplanted to the West Indies, where they thrived.
In the eighteenth century, nutmeg and mace were included in French codices and in the nineteenth century, Pulligny wrote a book of876 pages entirely devoted to the nutmeg tree and its spices.
Nutmeg oil and mace oil both contain myristicine, with small quantities of -
- Myristic acids
The main producers of the oils are the USA, Canada and Singapore (of nutmeg respectively 20 – 30 tonnes, 5 – 10 tonnes, and 1 – 2 tonnes per year, 1987 figures). The USA is the largest consumer of nutmeg oil (30 tonnes), followed by Britain with 10 tonnes.
Nutmeg oil is steam-distilled from nuts crushed to a butter; oil from the islands is re-distilled in France to improve the quality. Mace is steam-distilled from the arils. Both oils are similar, very pale yellow and very fluid. Nutmeg smells spicy, pleasant and hot, mace very strongly spicy. Both oils change as they become old, turning dark brown and smelling disagreeable, acidic and turpentine-like – do not buy or use if like this.
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