Before we get started I want to talk to you a little bit of nutmeg. Back in the olden times nutmeg was used for trading and it costed more than gold! The nutmeg itself is a fruit actually and it looks sort of like a miniature pear (see picture below).
This is the nutmeg fruit cut open you can see some red stuff surrounding the nut and that red stuff is mace it is used for cooking, baking ,preserving, pickling, and as you might know of the delicious EGG NOG! The nutmeg is inside of the nut that is surrounded by the mace. Now that you know a little bit about nutmeg you can read my story…….
There is this island called Banda island in Indonesia that we came across a few months ago. Banda produces nutmeg and mace from the nutmeg tree. For over a thousand years Banda islands were the world’s only place that could grow nutmeg and mace witch was used for medicines, flavorings, and preservings. All of these items were sold by the Arabs and Venetians for very high prices. The traders kept the location a secret from the Europeans so they could preserve their ability to make so much money. The nutmeg would sell in Europe for eight times as much as you could buy it for in Banda.
The Banda islands are located 1,243 miles east of Java in Indonesia. These islands are a volcanic group of ten small volcanic in the Banda sea. We crossed the Banda sea and found it was very difficult with unpredictable seas, weather, and lots of fishing nets. These islands are popular places to dive and snorkel. While snorkeling there I thought that the visibility was much better than in Australia and the bleaching wasn’t as bad though it was a bit blurry from the heat coming off the active volcano that hovered over us. It looked wavy like water that you might see just before a pot of water boils. As soon as you dove deep it would instantly change to freezing cold and crystal clear.
Banda would give many different countries nutmeg and mace in return for rice and cloth like light cotton “batik” as it was called from Java, ikat from the Lesser Sunda islands and calicoes from India. In 1603 an average quality sarong sized would be traded for eighteen kilograms of nutmeg! That’s a lot!
In the year 1,000 AD the Chinese traded porcelain which is china table ware. And then came the Arabs who traded silk. After the Arabs then came the Portuguese who traded wool and other materials the Bandanese people did not need. In 1510 came the Dutch who killed most of the Bandanese and stole the nutmeg and mace. The nutmeg and mace was then stored in the fort that the Dutch had built to keep them and their nutmeg safe. I was freaked out after the spice tour of how they killed most of the Bandanese by chopping off people’s heads and staking them to the ground. Some of the Banda people escaped to the kai islands who can be found today living peacefully.
While the Dutch were building a fort to store their stolen nutmeg the English claimed the small island of Run. It is only about a half a mile wide and located next to Banda. The English later traded the island of Run with the Dutch for the island of New Amsterdam which the English renamed New York. We know that island today as Manhattan.