Sweet potato pie. Eggnog. Coca Cola. Yes, Coca Cola. What do they have in common? They all feature the flavor of nutmeg. The seed of a tree originally found in the aptly-named Spice Islands, nutmeg seeds are small ovals with a bumpy, almost wood-like surface. They’re covered with a red layer that’s removed and sold as the spice Mace.

Nutmeg is available whole or ground, though it’s never used in its whole form. Once it’s ground, nutmeg loses its flavor quickly so it’s best to buy the whole seeds and grate them gently as you need it. A little nutmeg goes a long way so add it to your dishes sparingly. It’s nutty, distinct flavor is a great complement to sweet or spicy dishes, but it can easily overwhelm other flavors if too much is used. A pinch can add a depth of flavor to cream sauces, cakes and pies.

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