So I mentioned I’m living in the spice islands in previous posts, and I’ve now been fully immersed in the world ‘o nutmeg. Ambon region’s main spices are nutmeg, mace, and cloves so yesterday I went on a work field trip to the main company on the island the buys, processes, and exports spices. I was of course excited to learn about the spice that was so integral into the early development of the region, and my coworkers are so nice they invited Yasser to come along with us.
The main importer of nutmeg is Denmark and the company is now also setting up some partnerships with Australia and a coffee shop in the USA. I realized I knew very little about nutmeg, basically pumpkin pie and that’s it, so I had a lot to learn. The farmers bring their harvests to this facility and then depending on the quality level they are paid between $8.00-$9.50 per kilogram. The mace is the red lacy substance that covers a nutmeg nut. It is more valuable and more delicate and is exported as a spice but is also used in perfumes. The shells are also exported, although no one knew what people use them for, I thought maybe to create an exfoliating scrub but the workers didn’t seem convinced. Maybe because I tried to explain exfoliation by rubbing whole shells over my skin and saying ‘now pretty’…might have been lost in translation. My other thought was to use the shells while grilling or smoking food to impart a different flavor into meats. But it’s a mystery.
The mace (pronounced ma-che, not like the mace you spray into attackers eyes) is separated sifted to separate small pieces and larger, more valuable, pieces. The Mace is then examined by a team of local women to separate out foreign objects, dirty unusable mace, and clean sellable mace. The factory employees 77 community members, mostly women. These women work Monday-Thursday 7:30am-4:00pm, Friday 8-11:00 and Saturday 8:00-noon with an hour lunch break and a 15 minute snack break. The oldest woman working there is 70 years old and they were a lot of fun to talk to. Especially for Yasser, as the ladies told him he was quite a handsome man so he spent the rest of the time walking around like the Brad Pitt of the nutmeg plant. To be clear, he was wearing a face mask and hairnet so they didn’t even get to see his full handsomeness….ha.
The nutmeg seeds and mace are packed and labeled for export from here. Who knew there were so many things to do with nutmeg – here there is nutmeg juice, nutmeg soup, nutmeg jam, nutmeg soap, nutmeg everything!
We then visited a nutmeg farm and the local farmer showed my his plants as we walked
through his plantation tasting fruit from the trees. It takes about 9 months for a harvest and during the harvest season farmers sleep in little shacks in the middle of their trees to protect them from theft. It is evident that it takes a lot of work to pick and shell all this nutmeg as only handpicking and traditional methods are used, there are not machines to do any of this work, very impressive.
I found an article with these health benefits of nutmeg so let’s all start a nutmeg craze…although I’ve also found out too much nutmeg can cause hallucinations so maybe a nutmeg in moderation craze.
1. Brain Tonic
During ancient times, Roman and Greek civilizations used nutmeg as a type of brain tonic. This is because nutmeg can effectively stimulate your brain. As a result, it can help eliminate fatigue and stress. If you are suffering from anxiety or depression, nutmeg may also be a good remedy. Nutmeg can also improve your concentration so you can become more efficient and focused at work or at school.
2. Pain Relief
Nutmeg is also an effective sedative. In fact, nutmeg is a staple in ancient Chinese medicine. The Chinese used the spice to treat inflammation and abdominal pain. Use nutmeg if you are suffering from aching joints, muscle pain, arthritis, sores and other ailments. To relieve the pain, apply nutmeg oil to the affected areas.
3. Indigestion Relief
If you suffer from digestion-related problems like diarrhea, constipation, bloating, flatulence and so on, nutmeg can effectively offer you relief. Nutmeg oil relieves stomachaches by removing the excess gas from your intestines. Nutmeg can also boost your appetite.
4. Bad Breath Treatment
Because of its antibacterial properties, nutmeg can also effectively treat halitosis or bad breath. As you probably know, bad breath is usually caused by a build-up of bacteria in your mouth. Nutmeg can rid your mouth of these bacteria. This is the reason why nutmeg is a common ingredient in many brands of toothpastes. Nutmeg can also be used to treat gum problems and toothaches.
5. Liver and Kidney Detox
Detoxification is an important factor of good health. Diet, pollution, stress, tobacco, medication and other external substances can lead to the build-up of toxins in your organs. The liver and kidney are two of the organs where this toxic build-up usually develops. As a tonic, nutmeg can clean your liver and kidney and remove these toxins. If you are suffering from a liver disease then nutmeg can also be beneficial. Nutmeg is also effective in preventing and dissolving kidney stones. When your liver and kidney are successfully detoxified, they can perform their function better.
6. Skin Care
If skin care is one of your priorities then you might want to incorporate nutmeg into your regimen. Nutmeg can actually help you achieve smoother and healthier skin by helping you treat several skin problems. A scrub made from nutmeg powder and orange lentil powder can help you remove blackheads, a type of acne characterized by pores clogged with excess oil and dead skin cells. If you suffer from acne marks, nutmeg can also help make your scars less noticeable. What you need to do is mix some nutmeg powder with some honey to make a paste, which you will then apply to the acne marks.
7. Sleep Aid
If you have difficulty sleeping at night, drink a cup of milk with some nutmeg powder. This will help you achieve relaxation and will induce sleep.