Monday, October 6, 2008

Farmer's Market Finds: Locally Grown Spices

Saturday's trip to the KCC Farmer's Market yielded it usual bounty: locally grown mangos, Manoa lettuce, zucchini, tomatoes, green beans and assorted herbs (lemon basil, mint, cilantro). Mom and I split an order of the fried green tomatoes she was craving, served with a wasabi mayo and a lemon-basil mayo. A stop by the Wailea Agricultural Group booth also unearthed some more unusual finds--fresh spices that I don't often see outside of a spice jar. The Wailea Agricultural Group, from The Big Island, is the largest fresh Hawaiian Heart of Palm grower in America. They consider themselves "stewards of the earth" and practice sustainable agricultural practices. They sometimes bring tropical fruits and Meyer lemons to the market and this Saturday they also brought spices.

The strange looking "orbs" in the picture I posted yesterday are indeed fresh nutmeg, encased in mace as Rachel, Beach Bum, and Stephanie's Matt guessed. Its two, two, two spices in one! Nutmeg is the seed from the evergreen trees, Myristica fragrans, that are indigenous to Southeast Asia and Australia. Mace is the red "lacy" covering over the seed. (For more details and pictures look here).

When harvested, the nutmeg is encased in a yellowish fruit and the outer skin, flesh and mace are stripped off. The fruit is used in some countries to make jam or candy. The mace is removed, pressed flat and dried for a few hours, then stored in a dark cool place for several months where it will change color and becomes either orange-yellow or orange-red depending on the variety. It can then be ground in a spice grinder and used in both sweet and savory dishes. My spice book describes Mace as tasting "warm, aromatic, delicate and subtle with some lemony sweetness, yet it finishes with a potent bitterness. (My favorite spice book by the way is this one: Herbs and Spices: The Cook's Reference by Jill Norman--a great book with wonderful pictures)

Meanwhile the hard brown-black shell is dried for 6-8 weeks until the nutmeg kernel rattles in the shell. The shell is then cracked open and the nutmeg removed and stored until used--it keeps best whole and grated when needed. My spice book describes nutmeg as being "more camphorous and pine-like than mace, with hints of clove and a deep, bittersweet, woody flavor".

Nutmeg is not a favorite spice of mine, but the chance to dry and use my own locally grown nutmeg and mace and the fact they were $1.00 each made them too good to pass up. I'll post the results of my spice drying as it happens.

The nice guy at the booth also had some fresh bay leaves for $1.00 a stem. These are some huge leaves! He said to throw the branch on top of my refrigerator to dry, then strip off the dried leaves and store in an airtight container.

Hours of entertainment, really fresh spices, supporting a great local company and learning something new all for $3.00--I'd say that's a pretty good deal.


  1. that was a great deal and I love how you get to see the spice dry and be "made".

  2. Wow! I've never seen nutmeg in that form-what a great farmer's market you have.

  3. Hello Ms. Deb in Hawaii. Thank you so much for stopping by my blog. I always love hearing from you. So, what are those exotic looking fruits or vegetables? You've really got me curious now.

  4. I love nutmeg and mace - but they are so beautiful like that! Mace strangely gets used in a lot of very old English recipes and it really is irreplaceable.

  5. Well said! You can tell we're too much alike when it comes to food...I picked up my own little mace-encased nutmeg this weekend too! Looking forward to our cooking class coming up - I'll email you!

  6. Thanks for the really interesting post. You can use the bay leaves fresh as well - lovely baked with roast chicken, pumpkin and onion.

  7. Definitesly a steal. Thanks so much for sharing. If I ever see the bulging eye orb, I'll be ready. I wish I could get some of those bay leaves too.

  8. I have never even seen bay leaves that weren't dried, never even mind the Star Trek orbs.
    What a great market - I would go nuts there.
    The fried green tomatoes in different dipping sauces sounds great too!

  9. Kat--I think it will be fun to see.

    Veronica--it is a good market, I seem to find interesting things there.

    Teresa-thanks! they are pretty exotoc looking spices.

    Foodycat--I have not ever used mace but I have noticed it in vintage books here too.

    Michelle--we will have to compare notes on our spice progress!

    Suzy--ooh, that sounds good, I'll have to try it!

    Prudy--don't run from the eye! ;-)

    Natashya--they were good--not healthy but good!


Mahalo for visiting and for leaving a comment. I love reading them and they mean a lot!

All advertising, spam, inappropriate (or just plain rude) comments will be promptly deleted. I do appreciate your right to free speech and to your opinion but I'm not into mean, rude, or mean snarky (non-mean snarky is just fine!) ;-)