MY SPICE TRAIL
the hunt for nutmeg
Jakarta, formerly known as Batavia, used to be an important port of the world. In fact, it used to be the center of the world trades. Nations came from all over, in search of spices. Wealth came to the city and it became grand.
But spices weren't grown in Jakarta.
Being exposed to the history and how impactful nutmeg was, I was really curious to see its homeland.
My first encounter of the raw nutmeg actually happened in Talaud Island, North Sulawesi.
There it was, just left scattered on the streets to dry. Though happy to see it, its homeland was Maluku. I was determined to go.
The nutmeg is originally from Banda Neira, Maluku. It's a teeny tiny archipelago, hardly seen on the world map. Although desirable, it was really hard to find. Maps were forged in hopes that people couldn't find it. But I did.
Banda Neira is such a humble little clump of land, uniquely decorated with remains from the colonial days. I was ecstatic to see the nutmeg straight from its plantation.
It's so beautiful!
Gae-gae. Traditional tool to pick the nutmeg.
Along with it, I found other spices and nuts, such as the tropical walnut, clove, and cinnamon.
I love the fresh smell of cinnamon, straight from its tree. It's very different to dried cinnamon.
I like being in the nutmeg plantation. It's old, warm, and welcoming, like visiting my grandparent's home.
It's hard to believe that at a time, these tiny islands could change the course of the world; all because a small fruit that happened to grow here.
Nutmeg is usually pinched in local dishes. In Talaud, more is used for dishes containing pork or dog, to reduce the strong aroma. But it has also evolved. Nutmeg jam is my favorite modern form of the fruit, delicious with toast.
The other spices has also made it on the local menu such as eggplant with tropical walnut sauce, banana fritters and cinnamon, etc.
But there's another spice originally found in Indonesia; the clove. It is said that there is one remaining clove tree, still standing after 300 years in North Maluku.
I think it's my next destination.
To be continued...
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