We grow many things in our backyard – decorative plants, flower plants, vegetables, medicinal plants etc. This year when Shilpa visited us, she took pictures of as many different plants as possible. She asked me to write a little about each one. I thought of starting the series with nutmeg. We have a big nutmeg tree in our front yard.
Nutmeg is called Jaiphal in Konkani and jayikai in Kannada. It belongs to Myristica genus. It is a commercial plant. The fruits have nutritional as well as medicinal value. Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka mainly grow this crop. Greneda islands in America also grow Nutmeg. Read more about nutmeg at wiki.
Nutmeg has male and female trees. It was told in earlier days that one should grow both male and female trees to get the fruits. In our courtyard, there is only one tree – possibly female – which gives good yield. The tree needs a lot of water during summer(March to May). Few years back, we used to have water problem during summer because of which, we hardly used to get any fruits. We had considered removing this tree. But these days the condition has improved, so we get good crop.
Nutmeg looks like an arecanut/beatlenut fruit. The tree looks like the tree of kokum. It bears hundreds of fruits at a time.
When the fruit is tender, the mace(japatri) has white colour. After full ripening – usually in June or July, the fruit breaks open and the nutmeg inside covered with reddish mace(japatri) in the manner of net all around, appears. We pick them at this stage.
We separate mace from nutmeg and sundry them separately. The outer light colored shell is discarded (many people eat these, but we never ate them or used them in food). Thus we get two types of condiments in a single tree. The colour of mace remains red after sundrying. It looses its colour if it is over dried. The proper colour vanishes after storing for a long time. It is a cumbersome procedure to dry these nutmeg and mace as they ripen in rainy season and if they are not dried properly, they get spoiled. When the nutmeg is dried completely, we can hear a rattling sound when the fruit is shaken. While using in food, the outer black colored shell is broken to get the actual spice.
Nutmeg and mace are valuable because of their oily contents which are rich in chemicals like myristic acid compounds. Mace contains more chemicals than nutmeg and hence it is costlier. Indonesian nutmegs contain about 9% chemicals while the rest contain 2 -3% chemicals.
Nutmeg and mace are used in many no vegetarian preparations, bakery products, chewing gums, sweet dishes and soups. It has got some medicinal value. Nutmeg is applied externally to remove pain and swelling.
Though nutmeg is an expensive spice to buy, we feel it is not a profitable tree for us. When it is sold, we get quite a low rate since shop keepers usually buy it in kilos and it is a very light spice. We usually give it away to relatives and friends. Only if we manage to save some and dry them well, we sell them.
Apart from being a very useful tree, we all have emotional attachment to this tree. When my children were kids, they loved to play under this tree. They loved to pick nutmeg and also loved to play with the shells. Everyone who comes to our home, asks about this tree because it is quite unusual for many. In June, July when it bears fruits, we get to see very beautiful (and unusual to our area) birds on this tree. I think they come there to eat the fruit. They take many fruits and sometimes we find the fruits even in our neighbors backyards.