shielded by kenari
against the scorching heat
in threads of time
once stolen land
as eternal gold
a plant story about an aromatic marvel
In this article I want to offer a new way of looking at nutmeg. This fresh look does require a change in the way we think about plants. American author Michael Pollan discusses this shift in the introduction of The Botany of Desire (2001).
Pollan starts with a question about the difference between a gardener and a bumblebee. At first glance they seem to have little in common. On closer inspection though, they both dedicate themselves to distributing and propagating plant species.
One by way of plant care and scattering of sowing seed, the other by way of transfer of pollen from one flower to the other. With respect to the bumblebee and the flowering plant it is customary to speak of a collaborative partnership.
After all, both benefit from this relationship; cross-pollination in exchange for nourishing nectar. At the same time, we are inclined to think when it comes to the gardener that only man benefits from his relationship with garden plants.
‘my luscious aromas are world-famous’
Rumphius’ book on spices
At the University Library in Leiden, botanical philosopher, Norbert Peeters talks about the catalogue of plants, Herbarium Amboinense, by Georg Everhardt Rumphius (‘the blind seer of Ambon’). The book is one of the most important sources about the flora in the Indonesian archipelago in the 17th century.
‘not only does my existence fuel mythical comparisons, but even religious insanity’
In the Hortus Botanicus of Leiden, Rogier van Vugt talks about the nutmeg tree and other colonial plants, flowers and trees. Moving, destroying and planting plants took place on a large scale. Numerous exotic species went back and forth between the Netherlands and the archipelago.
‘a fruit dangling: ‘the apple of discord’ between the colonial powers’
‘Broeder’ cake from Banda
Rachel de Vries and granddaughter Robyn make a typically Bandanese dish: the Bandanese ‘Broeder’ (traditionally sweet bread made from flour, butter and eggs with currents, raisins, cinnamon and brown sugar). Is this ‘broeder’ maybe something that was brought from Hoorn, where the ‘Hoornse broeder’ is still very popular today? In any case, Rachel en Robyn still frequently bake the Bandanese version. With nutmeg of course.
‘when you cut into my bark or break off a branch, I produce a red and sticky sap like thin blood’
Charlotte Lopuhaä and Frans Palyama talk about the cultivation of nutmeg and the support that the nutmeg growers on Banda need. They are fighting for a sustainable production method and a fair price for the growers.
‘… had each eaten five or six nuts, without adding anything, which made them crazy and half-deranged’
Food and medicin
Food historian Marleen Willebrands explains how the nutmeg is used as medicine and as seasoning. Nutmeg is said to be a good remedy for abdominal pain (rub nutmeg oil on the belly button) and for insomnia. But nutmeg is used especially in the kitchen: in salads, on asparagus and of course on cauliflower.