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The spice of life

At the forefront of this spice rack is the nutmeg. The nutmeg is so important to the Grenadian economy that it graces the national flag as the ‘National Spice’. In medieval times nutmeg flavoured European cuisine and was used as a preservative and medicine – it was even believed that a nutmeg could prevent people from contracting the plague, which is consistent with its curative properties. But how did this little spice find its way to Grenada, where it has since had such an enormous impact?

Journey to Grenada
The nutmeg’s arrival in the heart of Grenada is the result of an epic journey made by a small group of men from the Windward Islands who sailed halfway around the world (before there was a Panama Canal), and returned with seeds that created an economic boon beyond calculation.

West Indian sugar production was at its zenith in 1840, due mainly to the ample amounts of free labour (slavery) and the advanced technology used in the British West Indies for sugar extraction. Because of this, arrangements were made to dispatch a group of sugar plantation overseers and agriculturalists from Grenada (and other sugar-producing islands) to Indonesia to help develop the British East Indies sugar plantations and upgrade Far East operations.

This group would have had to sail for months to facilitate a project of this scope, but ironically, on arrival in Indonesia, they would have felt very much at home. The islands were similar: volcanic in origin, both high altitude, and a tropical climate very much like the heart of Grenada.

Having made this epic journey, the agriculturalists became interested in the cultivation of all plants and were especially curious about the nutmeg they found there and its myriad uses. As a result they set about learning how to propagate nutmeg and, on their safe return, the Hon. Frank Gurney,

Grenadian agriculturalist, planted the first seeds on the Belvidere Estate in 1843. Nearby, at the Capitol estate, Captain John Bell planted nutmegs from the Far East because he liked his punch. And then they waited eight years for the trees to mature and bear fruit.

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