There's far more to nutmeg
than meets the eye.
On Grenada, nutmeg is like sunshine. You find the spice almost everywhere.
Nutmeg, which grows on trees, is a complex spice. Its outer fleshy covering resembles a ripe peach. Once a nutmeg ripens, the fleshy covering splits to reveal a nut inside.
This nut, however, is covered with a thin layer of red mace, a valuable and delectable spice in its own right. The mace has to be peeled away before you can see the nutmeg itself.
Both mace and nutmeg are graded according to their size and quality. It's a very labor intensive task, as you'll at two of Grenada's processing stations, a normal part of every day trip around the island.
Large flatbeds containing mace, cocoa beans and other spices adjoin the ancient processing station at the Dougaldston spice estate near Gouyave.
The spices are still sorted by hand, as they have been since 1700, inside an ancient, wooden building capped with a rusty metal roof. A small display highlights many of the locally-grown products. They include the so-called loofah "sponge," actually the fibrous substance of a gourd pod.
At the 3-story nutmeg warehouse in the fishing village of Gouyave, your tour starts on the two top floors loaded to capacity with huge sacks of whole nutmeg. The mace is stored inside wooden cabinets.
The grading and sorting is carried out on the first floor by several dozen workers, mostly women.
A small gift store stocks a variety of nutmeg products, including nutmeg jelly. That spreads well on toast or makes a delicious ice cream topping.
The secret to a great rum punch is sprinkling freshly grated nutmeg on the top.
Once you've sampled it, you may never go back to the stuff in cans and tins. Packets of whole nutmeg with small graters are sold everywhere.
They're so obvious they're easy to overlook--and leave behind.