How is Nutmeg Grown?
Nutmeg is the seed that is dried, shelled, and sold for consumption either whole or ground while mace is the “aril” of the fruit consisting of a fleshy network. Nutmeg is native to the Moluccas island but was gradually introduced to India towards the end of the 18th century. It is now grown in certain regions of Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu. It is commonly used in the culinary, pharmaceutical, and confectionery industries. Nutmeg yields about 7 to 15% oil respectively. Nutmeg oil is used for flavouring certain food, liquor, and perfumery products in the commercial industry. Oleoresin, a compound present in nutmeg is used extensively in flavouring processed foods. Nutmeg is popularly known as the refined younger sibling of mace. It is grown from the trees scientifically classified as “Mystrica fragrans” which belong to the Myristicaceae family. When you buy nutmeg you are possessing a very versatile spice that can be used for your culinary and medicinal properties.
Nutmeg thrives well in warm weather conditions and locations with an annual rainfall of 150cm or more. It grows optimally from a sea-level up to about 1300m above mean sea level (MSL). It is appropriate in certain specific soil conditions such as sandy loam, clay loam, and red lateritic soil. Some climatic conditions don’t suit nutmeg and its growth. Both water-logged conditions and dry climate are not ideal for its growth. A mixture of both is required to balance out the growth of nutmeg. The climate and soil prevailing in the slopes of the Eastern and Western Ghats ( 700 to 1300m) are best conditioned for the optimal growth of nutmeg. When you buy nutmeg make sure to verify that it was grown under suitable weather conditions.
Nutmeg trees grown in Kerala are propagated through seeds in the fields. Large-sized fruits are harvested or collected when they fall from high-yielding trees. The mace covering the seed and the rind of the fruit is removed just before sowing. The seeds are usually sown in specifically prepared nursery beds immediately after collection. If the sowing process is delayed, the seeds are transferred to trays filled with moist sand which keeps them fresh and viable for around 15 days. When you buy nutmeg make sure to ensure that it was propagated under standard conditions.
Specific measures and thorough attention have to be taken to ensure good germination. Regular watering is necessary for best-case results. The germination process should commence from about the 30th day and should last up to 90 days after sowing. About 18 to 24-month-old seedlings are used for transplanting in the field. Air layering, inarching and budding have also been proved to be effective in most cases. Buy nutmeg from reputed vendors to make sure that you get the highest quality of nutmeg possible.
To get the best yield and growth possible, nutmeg requires heavy manuring. Farmyard manure or compost at the rate of 10 kg per plant should be applied in the first year of planting nutmeg. The quantity should steadily increase every year so that a well-grown tree of about fifteen years can be made possible. During the first year, fertilizers should supply 18g phosphorus, 20g nitrogen, and 50 g potash per plant. The fertilizers are applied in two equal doses, the first of which should be done in the months of May- June along with organic manure, and the other in September- October. Shallow trenches are dug around each tree at a radius of 1 to 1.5m away from the trunk for applying manures and fertilizers whenever necessary. When you buy nutmeg make sure that it was not grown under artificial fertilizers which compromise the quality of the spice.
Grafts of the trees start bearing fruit in about 4 to 5 years while seedling trees start bearing fruits in 7 to 8 years. They reach the full bearing stage after 15 to 20 years and may continue to yield for about 60 years. Nutmeg trees bear fruits throughout the year but the peak season of harvest is in the months of June to August. The fruits take 9 months after flowering to the harvesting period. When the rind of the nut opens, the fruits are ripe and are ready to be picked. They are plucked directly from the tree or are allowed to drop onto the ground and then collected. Mace is detached from the seed by hand after the fruits are collected. It is then allowed to completely dry for about ten to fifteen days. The seeds are separately kept for drying for a duration of four to eight weeks either in artificial conditions or kept directly under the sun. The kernel is then opened with a wooden mallet and extracted to derive the nutmeg from it. You should buy nutmegs that are grown and harvested under suitable conditions.
Nutmeg fruits weigh an average of 60g from which the seeds themselves weigh around 6 to 7g. A fully grown tree planted under regular conditions may produce an average of 2,000 to 3,000 fruits per year. About 800 kg of nutmeg can be expected and extracted for each hectare. When you buy nutmeg online or from your local grocery store make sure that it doesn’t display any signs of rot or decay.