Two spices are obtained from the fruit of the evergreen nutmeg tree - nutmeg and mace. When the fruit of the tree (similar in size and colour to an apricot) are harvested, they are split open to reveal a red lacy layer covering the shell (this layer is removed from the nut and dried to become mace).
The shell is then dried and when the nutmeg inside it rattles, the shell is cracked open to reveal the light brown nutmeg. Nutmeg has a rich sweet and warm flavour and is available ready-ground or whole, whole nutmeg should have a strong aromatic flavour.
Uses: Nutmeg is used in a variety of sweet and savoury dishes including cakes, biscuits, seafood and vegetable dishes. It is particularly good in milk puddings and drinks and adds a delicious spicy flavour to mulled wine.
To store: Keep whole and ground nutmeg in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Nutmeg is quite oily, so shake ground nutmeg well before using - it can settle and stick together in the jar. For the most pronounced flavour buy whole nutmegs and grate as and when required.
To prepare: Whole nutmeg should be grated. Specialist nutmeg graters are available, but the finest blade on a standard cheese grater does the job just as well.