Known as one of the most valuable spices since a long, long time ago, Papuan nutmeg (Myristica argentea Warb.), part of the Myristica genus, has a lot of potentials. Like other Myristica, Papuan nutmeg grows very well in tropical rainforests in an area up to 700 meters above sea levels.
Nutmegs can be found in several regions in Indonesia. But Papuan nutmeg is gaining its market because of its uniqueness. What makes Papuan nutmeg special? Let’s get to know more.
Papuan Nutmeg Become Major Source of Income
Fakfak region is located in the south of West Papua, with a total area of 1.432.000 hectares. 86 percent of it is covered by evergreen forest, where the nutmeg grows abundantly.
Besides Fakfak, Papuan nutmeg also grows in some parts of the Kaimana region. In both areas, the nutmeg can grows wild or under cultivation. The natural spread of nutmeg is also supported by the help of the nutmeg-eater bird, Julang Papua (Rhyticeros plicatus).
Looking at these facts, it is not surprising that Papuan nutmeg has become one of the major sources of income for local people. People called Papuan nutmeg there “Pala Fakfak” or “Hanggi.”
The Special Characteristics of Papuan Nutmeg
Banda Island, like West Papua, is also a producer of nutmeg. But do you know that these two regions produce different kinds of nutmeg? Here’s the explanation.
Bandanese Nutmeg is categorized as a different species from Papuan Nutmeg. Bandanese nutmeg is called Myristica fragrans Houtt. As mentioned before, Papuan nutmeg is Myristica argantea Ward. They have different morphology, taxonomy, and chemical components.
Papuan nutmeg has a bigger and longer size. The flesh or pericarp of the Papuan nutmeg is sweeter, and the fuli or arilus is thicker and redder.
On the other hand, Papuan nutmeg has a softer aroma than Bandanese nutmeg. This is why Papuan nutmeg became a favorite choice for fragrance products such as aromatherapy and perfume.
The Whole Nutmeg Can be Utilized, Not Just the Seeds!
Papuan nutmeg was first famous because of its seeds and mace, and other parts are considered useless. The seeds and mace have high economic values, especially when dried.
But as time goes by, the people in West Papua realize that other parts of nutmeg can turn into something valuable too.
Moreover, knowing the fact that Papuan nutmeg flesh is sweeter and thicker. The local community starts to create derivative products from nutmeg’s flesh.
Now becoming a popular local product for tourists visiting West Papua, there are Papuan nutmeg syrup, jams, candies, and taffies made from the nutmeg’s flesh.
Another part of nutmeg that is now usable is the seed’s skin, known as “Testa” or “Batok Pala”. Indigenous people use it as a fire source, replacing coconut skin or “Batok Kelapa”.
As written in West Papua Daily, Indonesian chefs nowadays also started to explore other parts of Papuan nutmeg plants such as leaves. Chef Aziz Amri from Masterchef Indonesia Season 7 put some nutmeg leaves into the dish to enhance aroma and flavor, like the usual use of bay leaves.
Nutmeg Have Cultural and Ecological Function in Papua
The cultural and ecological function of Papuan nutmeg always goes side by side. The local community considers nutmeg trees as the mother of life. They even have traditional regulations to protect nutmeg trees and apply sanctions for those who violate the regulation.
For example, in the Kaimana region, a conservation effort, “Sasi Sambite”, was inherited from the ancestors. The sasi bans any villager from harvesting the nutmeg before it fully matures. This tradition positively impacts keeping the nutmeg sustainable and consistent in quality.
Nutmeg trees indeed protect the environment from natural disasters such as floods and landslides. Even though the trunk’s size is not huge, it has very strong roots. The roots protect the areas around the plantation so it can survive the devastating effects of climate change.
In conclusion, the uniqueness and the huge potential of Papuan nutmeg are already acknowledged by local people. It is proven with the facts that West Papua has become one of the biggest suppliers of Indonesia’s nutmeg export, which we need to value and develop in the future.