List of Spices; Nutmeg Grew on a Tiny Archipelago

Explore an important part of the list of spices. And No, this discovery cannot be done from your hotel in Bali, you actually have to travel to the Spice Islands. You will find them in lost archipelagos in the middle of the Indonesian ocean. There are three very well known and significant spices that are used in most cooking and these spices originate from the Spice Islands in Indonesia.

The Province of Maluku is the Home of:

1. Clove 

Centers were the islands of Ternate and Halmahera. Besides widely used in the food industry clove traditionally helps ease toothaches and its leaves are rolled into Kretek cigarettes loved in Indonesia

2. Nutmeg and

3. Mace 

Originated in the Banda Islands and were well known as a food preservative (before the introduction of refrigeration). Besides their many uses in enhancing dishes, these spices are also used in medicine, food, cosmetic, and perfume industries. 

In German nutmeg is called Muskat Nuss; the name derives from the place Muscat in the middle east that is thought of having been a hub for the spice trade. 

Brief History of Nutmeg to Add to the List of Spices 

The nutmeg was thought to be known by the ancient Chinese and also by medical doctors in Byzantium around the 6th century who knew that it came from the Banda Islands. It arrived in Europe with the Crusaders around 1000 AD.

A treaty written on a stone and sealed with blood shows that at first the merchants were allowed to trade the spices, were not allowed to own land and were not to interfere with local beliefs. Starting in 1512 the Portuguese found these remote islands and started exporting their rare and thought after nutmeg. The British, Spanish, Dutch realized the power of this humble spice and went to war to own the islands. 

In 1621 Jan Pieterszoon Coen brought his troops and started killing first all the social, economic and religious leaders; and not stopping there. Almost the whole population or about 15,000 people were killed and replaced by slaves from other islands. This way the Dutch could claim total control over the nutmeg trade making sure that no fresh part of the trees was exported except the dried spices of nutmeg and mace. This monopoly held for 150 years until a French man was able to smuggle some young saplings to Mauritius. 

The Treaty of Breda

The nutmeg was kept very scarce and prices did skyrocket (its smoke was hailed as the help and cure of the plague).  in 18. April 1667 the historic Treaty of Breda was signed between the British and the Dutch. They exchanged the island of Rhun only about 3000 m long and 750 m wide for the much larger island of Manhatten that had less than 1000 inhabitants.

This is how important and valuable the island of Rhun was at this time in history. The name Banda Island is written much larger on old maps because of the fabled riches it produced for the Dutch of the time. The humble nutmeg, an important member of the list of spices, got there with much blood and suffering.

Fast Forward to Today

Nutmeg is still cultivated here and exported. In 2017 1 kg of the nut fetched between Rp. 70,000-100,000 ($5-7). A tree yields about 3-4 kg every three months. The smaller nutmeg trees are planted beneath the much taller Kenari or almond trees to give them the necessary shade from too much sun and protection from heavy rains.

The spices nutmeg and mace are dried in the sun then the nutmeg has to be smoked to make it more resistant to mold and pests. (If you have nuts that have little holes or are infested, do not consume them.) The fruit that encircles the mace hugging nutmeg is also made into jam or sweets.

For more information on my trip to Banda Island:

Ambon, the gateway to the spice islands and the hotel we stayed at.

Diving and snorkeling a must when here, and there is more, much much more.

Be comfortable and cared for at Cilu Bintang Estate, while you explore the history. You also need to know how to get to these lost islands. 

Comfortable Accommodation Similar to Bali 

While exploring part of the list of spices in Banda Neira we stayed at the very homey Cilu Bintang Estate, there are cheaper solutions like the Mutiara and others.

A unique way to explore these islands is by Phinisi cruise ships. We visited one in Bali and saw the beautiful and purpose-built Silolona Schooner anchored in the bay of Banda

List of Spices Nutmeg

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