Nutmeg’s origin is in the volcanic Banda islands of Maluku* Indonesia. By the 10th century AD, the fruit of these distant islands made it as far as the Arabian peninsula, and in more modern times the Dutch East India Company made it’s fortune from the fruit.
The nutmeg fruit comes with a seed wrapped in red threads known as mace. The seed is the nutmeg. Growing on the Myristica fragrans tree, it was once the most expensive spice in the world, and only available through the Dutch East India Company’s monopoly. It’s no surprise, that we see nutmegs begin to appear in elite Dutch cuisine as early as the late 15th century (including this ‘gin’ recipe from 1495).
Once a spice to show off one’s wealth, cultivation outside of Maluku has made it more affordable in modern times. But the captivation of nutmeg’s unique camphoraceous, woody, gentle spice remains.
*Those in the gin world might know these islands better by the Anglicized spelling of it as “Moluccas.”