Nutmegs are the seed of the fruit from Myristica fragrans, a tropical evergreen tree, which also produces mace. It’s used in sweet baking, especially pumpkin pie and spice cakes, as well as being a common ingredient in Northern European sausage and stew recipes. In the South, a pinch of nutmeg is crucial to macaroni and cheese and stewed greens. Indonesian and Japanese curries frequently use nutmeg for a subtle sweetness, and Caribbean cooking adds nutmeg to greens, oxtail stew, and as a garnish for several rum-based drinks.
Until just a few centuries ago, all the nutmeg in the world grew only on a few tiny islands in Indonesia. European colonial powers fought bitterly over control of these islands, as nutmeg was highly valued for its flavor, preservative qualities, and alleged ability to cure plague. The Dutch held a monopoly on nutmeg production for many years, but when it was broken nutmeg trees were spread to the West Indies and other areas. This fresh, high-oil ground nutmeg comes from Indonesia.