Until just a few centuries ago, all the world’s nutmeg grew on just a few tiny islands in Indonesia. European colonial powers fought bitterly over control of these islands, as nutmeg was highly valued for its flavor, preservative qualities, and alleged ability to cure plague. The Dutch held a monopoly on nutmeg production for many years, but when it was broken nutmeg trees spread to the West Indies and beyond. These large whole nutmegs are grown in the Caribbean island of Grenada, which is famous for especially high-quality nutmegs.
Their dense, oily pits will keep for years in your cupboard, releasing an amazingly complex aroma and flavor every time you grate them. Nutmeg is used in sweet baking, especially pumpkin pie and spice cakes, as well as being a common ingredient in Northern European sausage and stew recipes. In the South, a pinch of nutmeg is crucial to macaroni and cheese and stewed greens.