Mace is the lacy coating that is found on a nutmeg seed, and is removed by hand from the outer shell of the nutmeg and then dried. It is sold in whole pieces called blades or in the more common ground form. The flavor of mace is commonly described as a combination of cinnamon and pepper, and is a more pungent version of nutmeg. It is most often used for baking in donuts, cakes, puddings, custards and other desserts, but can also be found in cheese dishes, soufflés, sauces, soups and as a seasoning for poultry and fish.
The color of mace blades can help determine the origin. Orange-yellow blades come from Grenada, where it is the national symbol and is found on the country’s flag, while orange-red blades come from Indonesia. Both nutmeg and mace are effective at treating digestive and stomach problems, as they aid in digestion and stimulate the appetite.
The use of mace goes far back in history. In the first century A.D., the Roman author Pliny spoke of a tree bearing nuts with two flavors. And Emperor Henry VI had the streets of Rome fumigated with nutmegs before his coronation. In the sixth century, nutmegs were brought by Arab merchants to Constantinople. In the 14th century, half a kilogram of nutmegs cost as much as three sheep or one cow.