Native to the Spice Islands, this seed from the nutmeg tree (a tropical evergreen) was extremely popular throughout much of the world from the 15th to the 19th century. When the fruit of the tree is picked, it is split to reveal the nutmeg seed surrounded by a lacy membrane that, when dried and ground, becomes the spice mace. The hard, egg-shaped nutmeg seed is grayish-brown and about 1 inch long. The flavor and aroma are delicately warm, spicy and sweet. Nutmeg is sold ground or whole. Whole nutmeg freshly ground with a nutmeg grater or grinder is superior to that which is commercially ground and packaged.