Thursday March 22, 2012 | 04:51 PM

I've met nutmeg before. We're both fans of cold-weather cocktails like hot buttered rum and mulled cider. But I'd only ever come face-to-face with the ground-up stuff that's sold in cylinders at the grocery store.

But I happened to stumble across some whole nutmeg in the Aurora Provisions kitchen recently. (I swear I didn't break in and that Chef Marion Bannon was supervising.) The whole version - before it's ground into dust - actually looks quite like a nut.

nutmegwhole_570.jpg

And inside, it looks quite like a brain. But then I think everything looks like a brain.

nutmeghalve_570.jpg

Nutmeg grows from a tree prevalent in Indonesia and a few other places. The spice we know comes from a seed inside the nutmeg fruit. Mace, a red covering on the seed that looks a bit like a web of red licorice, is another spice derived from the same plant. So the nutmeg tree is sort of an overachiever in the spice world.


Wikimedia Commons photo

During the Elizabethan era, people thought nutmeg could thwart the plague. And something called myristicin, which is found in freshly ground nutmeg, can apparently make people delirious in high doses.

Personally, I find a sprinkling is sufficient and doesn't require a trip to the sanatorium.

 

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Shannon Bryan is a feature writer for the Portland Press Herald and content producer for MaineToday Media's entertainment website, www.mainetoday.com.

And here's a well-known truth: Shannon can't cook. She's also ostroconophobic (in Maine?!?), but in a foodie place like southern Maine, she's determined to learn how to cook, eat, and order with the best of them. Read about her culinary crusade:
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She's also an investigator into all that's strange and entertaining to do around here. Those findings are gathered here:
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