Nutmeg – a spice having a particular aroma and a marginally sweet taste, is used to enhance the taste of sugary treats, meat, sauces, and many other delicacies. There’s no doubt that this spice is found stored in many kitchens.
But if you are wondering whether your nutmeg goes bad and how long this spice can last read on to find out.
Does Nutmeg Go Bad?
Along with nutmeg, various other species are present in our pantry. If your pantry is unorganized, the opened bag of nutmeg might easily be misplaced, and of course, you’ll use a new bag immediately.
After a few weeks or months, you might notice that open bag of nutmeg peeping from the cabinet. A question will immediately pop on your head ‘Is that nutmeg safe to use?’.
Like any other spices, nutmeg does go bad. However, if stored properly, this spice will last you very long. If you properly want to store and find the shelf life of ground and the whole nutmeg, continue reading this post.
How Long Does Nutmeg Last?
Nutmeg is definitely not cheap. So, if you’re thinking of throwing it away once it goes bad, you should probably consider not to buy it in bulk.
This flavorful spice is indeed safe to use for an extended period of time without any harm, but we should compromise with its quality over time. Moreover, the proper storage is crucial to increase the shelf life of the spice.
The shelf life of Nutmeg
Like other species, the ground nutmeg has less shelf life than the whole. However, ground nutmeg loses its aroma and flavor faster, given that a larger section of powder is exposed to air contrary to the fact that only the surface of the whole nutmeg is exposed.
Package of nutmeg usually comes with the expiring date, but it’s just an estimate of the quality of the product. However, the smell and the taste of the spice degrades with time.
Nutmeg is dried before packaging. This drying process ensures that this spice lasts a lot longer. Nutmeg, when stored properly in air sealed jar can last up to 4-5 years when kept as a whole whereas ground nutmeg can be freshly used for 2-3 years.
Contact with water and direct sunlight will ruin the spices more quickly than usual. However, the nutmeg is safe to use for a much longer time. The above estimation only refers to the time for its best quality.
3 Tips to tell if Nutmeg Has Gone Bad
When appropriately stored, nutmeg has a shelf life of 4-5 years. But if kept carelessly, it is highly prone to mold formation.
Some noticeable signs that indicate that your nutmeg has gone bad and is no longer useful in your kitchen are:
1. Mold Formation
When the packet of ground or whole nutmeg is exposed to water, the fungal growth starts and forms a spongy and clustered surface, which is termed as mold formation.
This exposure leads to the actual spoilage of the spices. Whenever molds are seen in the packet, it is no longer safe to use them, and you should remove such packets from your kitchen cupboards.
Before you use your packet of nutmeg on your delicious recipes, make sure you smell it. If you notice that your packet of nutmeg has built some off-smell, it is an alarm that you should get rid of such nutmeg before it destroys your meal.
3. Check the potency
As mentioned above, the aroma and the flavor of your nutmeg degrades over time. So, when using the nutmeg which was stored for a long time, it is necessary to check its potential.
You can check its potential by rubbing some ground nutmeg between your fingers and taste and smelling it. If the flavor and aroma of the spices don’t smell off, it is safe to use.
However, if the flavor isn’t strong enough, it won’t do any wonders in your recipes as well.
So, if you notice that the flavor has degraded, you need to open the new packet of nutmeg to get the desired taste on your food.
5 Tips to Store Nutmeg
Nutmeg, when stored safely and properly, will last you for years. Moreover, if you don’t mind the decreasing flavor and aroma, you might never need to throw away this spice.
Proper storage of nutmeg isn’t something that will demand a lot of effort from you. It is quite effortless. But firstly, you must know to do so. Here are the few tips that you can consider when it comes to storing this potent spice.
1. Keep the spice away from heat, sunlight, and moisture:
If nutmeg, either whole or grated, comes in contact with moisture, mold formation can occur. Moreover, overexposure to heat and direct sunlight will degrade the potency and flavor of spices.
So, always make sure to store nutmeg, or any other spices in general, in a dark and cool area of your pantry.
2. Store in an air-tight container:
Both whole and ground nutmeg must be stored in an air-tight container. You can also use a sealable bag such as a zip-loc bag. Create a vacuum inside before sealing the bag and your nutmeg will do its magic on your recipes for years.
3. Don’t refrigerate or freeze nutmeg:
Some might believe that storing nutmeg in the refrigerator might increase its shelf life. But, when it comes to nutmeg, the humidity inside of the refrigerator might further degrade its quality.
Nutmeg, when stored properly, will retain its quality for very long even at room temperatures.
4. Store the whole nutmeg:
If you aim to store this spice for long, always purchase whole ones rather than the grounded powder.
Ground nutmeg has higher surface area exposed and thus, loses its potency, flavor, and aroma faster. So, don’t store grated nutmeg and only grate them when you need them in recipes.
Moreover, in a study ground nutmeg was found to contain more aflatoxins and mold when compared to whole ones. So, when possible, avoid buying powdered nutmeg and opt for whole nutmegs instead.
5. Don’t use a wet spoon for measurements:
This tip is basic, yet very crucial. Never use a wet spoon for measurement of nutmeg if you want your grounded nutmeg to last long. In general, no spices must be measured using a wet spoon.
The Risk of Consuming an Expired Nutmeg
Nutmeg doesn’t go bad easily. So, in general, it is safe to consume nutmeg even past its expiry date.
But, if you’ve been using very old nutmeg in your recipes, that might be adding almost zero flavor to your dish. So, to bring that punch back to your recipes, make sure to use as fresh nutmeg as possible.
In a study, nutmeg, especially grounded ones, were found to contain aflatoxins. Aflatoxins are secondary metabolites of molds and are known to be carcinogenic to humans.
Mycotic contaminants were also found in the sample, which proves that this spice can be a good shelter to such contaminants.
Moreover, molds also secrete mycotoxins, which are known to cause respiratory problems and allergic reactions to some individuals.
Thus, proper storage of nutmegs is crucial if you want to save them past their expiry date. Overall, if you’ve made sure that your spice hasn’t been exposed to high moisture or high heat, consuming them past the expiry date would probably be safe.
Can you freeze Nutmeg?
As we’ve mentioned in the above section, nutmeg should preferably be stored in an air-sealed container in a dark and cool place. There is no need to freeze nutmeg, be it whole or grounded, as room temperature is enough to keep its flavor and aroma intact.
When you freeze-dried species like nutmeg, you are not helping to increase the shelf life of the spices. Rather, the humid condition inside the freezer might degrade the spice. So, freezing a packet of nutmeg is never a viable option for its long-term storage.
Moreover, the problem of condensation in the container may arise when you regularly remove the jar out for use, speeding up the loss of aroma and taste from the nutmeg.
However, if you absolutely have to freeze the nutmeg, seal it in an air-tight bag and remember to remove as much air as possible.
Also, don’t freeze the whole packet. Instead, save some nutmeg on countertop for short-term use and freeze the remaining. Doing so will ensure that you won’t have to remove and expose the frozen nutmeg every now and then.
A pinch of nutmeg can add a burst of flavors to your recipes. So, logically, stocking too much nutmeg in your pantry is not a good idea.
However, properly stored nutmeg can last you years and you’ll not have to add it to your grocery list constantly. So, if this post has boosted your confidence in spice storage skills, go for it!