Nutmeg is the seed, from the fruit of an evergreen tree known as Myristica fragrance. It is also the only tropical tree in the world that is credited for bearing two distinct spices – nutmeg and mace. Nutmeg trees grow best in tropical, humid climates with sandy soil. The climatic conditions of Kerala suit nutmeg, and it is grown in homesteads in the State as an intercrop. Nutmeg trees flower and produce fruits throughout the year, the peak season of harvest is from June to August. The fruits take 9 months from flowering to harvest. When the fleshy rind of the nut splits open, the fruits are fully ripe for picking. They are either plucked from the tree or are allowed to drop onto the ground and then collected. After removal of the outer fleshy rind, mace is detached from the seed shell by hand and flattened out. It is then allowed to dry slowly in the sun for four to six days. During drying the mace gradually becomes brittle and horny and attains a yellowish-brown colour. The seeds are dried separately for 5 to 8 days either in the sun or in artificial heat until the kernel rattles inside the shell, which is then broken open with a wooden mallet, and the kernel is taken out. It is a dried seed, which is ground to make a spice.
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