Mace – A Pungent Spice
A fragrant tanned spice; the dried lacy reddish aril of the Nutmeg seed from Myristica Fragrans, an evergreen tree indigenous to the Spice Islands of tropical Indonesia.
Mace is yellowish tan to reddish tan in colour, made up of flat, hornlike, shiny branched pieces with an aromatic odour and warm taste. The subtle flavour can make mace a useful spice to have around, especially since many recipes call for it. The fruits of the nutmeg tree enclose the richly flavoured nutmeg seeds and mace is found in between the exterior fruit and the internal seed, and it takes the form of bright waxy red bands which surround the seed.
Whole dried mace is known as a blade and it should be stored in a cool dry place, and should not be exposed to moisture, and should use quickly to maximize the flavour, as the flavour is very delicate.
Once harvested from the tree, its husk is separated and discarded. Just underneath the tough husk is the golden-brown colour aril, known as “mace,” enveloping firmly around the nutmeg seed.
Mace is gently peeled off from the kernel surface, flattened into strips, dried, and sold either as whole “mace blades” or finely ground into powder.
Mace spice really boosts colour, taste and flavour of foods, apart from aroma. However, it contains some of the anti-oxidant compounds essential oils, minerals, and vitamins. It is less in calories, however, has more concentrations of essential oils, vitamin A, vitamin C, carotenes, iron and calcium.
The spice contains fixed oil trimyristine, and many essential volatile oils, which gives a sweet aromatic flavour such as myristicin, elemicin, eugenol and safrole. These oils occur in higher concentration in mace. The other less important volatile-oils are pinene, camphene, dipentene, cineole, linalool, sabinene, safrole, terpeniol. This spice has many therapeutic applications in traditional medicines such as anti-fungal, anti-depressant, aphrodisiac, digestive, and carminative functions.
Mace has more Vitamin-C content and mace blades contain more Riboflavin [Vitamin B-2]. Mace arils are rather excellent sources of Vitamin-A and it also contain more calcium, copper, iron and magnesium.
Manganese and copper are consumed by the human body as co-factors for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Iron is essential for red blood cell production and as a co-factor for cytochrome oxidases enzymes.
Mace extraction has also been employed in Chinese and Indian traditional medicines for treatment of illnesses related to the nervous and digestive systems. The compounds in this spice such asmyristicin and elemicin have been found to have soothing as well as stimulant properties on brain.
Mace-oil contains eugenol, which has been used in dentistry for toothache relief. The oil is also used as a local massage to reduce muscular pain and rheumatic pain of joints.
Freshly prepared mace-decoction with honey has been employed to get relief from nausea, gastritis, and indigestion ailments.
Mace normally commands a special place in the kitchen spice box! Mace having more delicate flavour is often preferred in light dishes for the bright, saffron like hue it imparts.
Mace is mostly required in sweet dishes. It gives sweet, warm and pleasant flavour, especially to the bakery foods like pastries, donuts, cake, etc.
Mace can be used in cakes, scones, spice cookies, curries, soups, cream sauces, roasts, and a range of other ingredients. Some traditional Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian spice blends also call specifically for mace.
In native European cuisine, mace is a special ingredient in potato dishes and in processed meat products.
In Scotland, mace is an essential ingredient in savoury pudding.
In India, it is popularly known as javitri/jaathipathri is found in an array of sweet and savoury recipes.
It is also employed as one of the common ingredients in the spice mix, particularly in Indian Garam Masala powder, and Moroccan, Rass-el-Hanout.
Its freshly ground powder is added to meat stews, bean stews, sauces, and soups and many recipes which recommend mace also call for the spice to be added at the end of the cooking process.