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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Myristica fragrans
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Magnoliids
Order: Magnoliales
Family: Myristicaceae
Genus: Myristica

See text

Nutmegs in a tree, Kerala, India

Nutmeg is several species of trees in genus Myristica. The most important commercial species is Myristica fragrans, an evergreen tree indigenous to the Banda Islands in the Moluccas of Indonesia, or Spice Islands. The nutmeg tree is important for two spices derived from the fruit, nutmeg and mace.[1]

Nutmeg is the actual seed of the tree, roughly egg-shaped and about 20 to 30 mm (0.8 to 1 in) long and 15 to 18 mm (0.6 to 0.7 in) wide, and weighing between 5 and 10 g (0.2 and 0.4 oz) dried, while mace is the dried "lacy" reddish covering or aril of the seed. This is the only tropical fruit that is the source of two different spices.

Several other commercial products are also produced from the trees, including essential oils, extracted oleoresins, and nutmeg butter (see below).

The outer surface of the nutmeg bruises easily.

The pericarp (fruit/pod) is used in Grenada to make a jam called "Morne Delice". In Indonesia, the fruit is also made into jam, called selei buah pala, or is finely sliced, cooked with sugar, and crystallised to make a fragrant candy called manisan pala ("nutmeg sweets").

The Common or Fragrant Nutmeg, Myristica fragrans, native to the Banda Islands of Indonesia, is also grown in Penang Island in Malaysia and the Caribbean, especially in Grenada. It also grows in Kerala, a state in the south part of India. Other species of nutmeg include Papuan Nutmeg M. argentea from New Guinea, and Bombay Nutmeg M. malabarica from India, called Jaiphal in Hindi; both are used as adulterants of M. fragrans products.


Selected Myristica species


M. acsmithii
M. agusanensis
M. alba
M. albertisii
M. amboinensis
M. ampliata
M. amplifolia
M. amygdalina
M. anceps
M. andamanica
M. angolensis
M. angustifolia
M. apiculata
M. archboldiana
M. ardisiifolia
M. arfakensis
M. argentea
M. aruensis
M. atrescens
M. atrocorticata
M. attenuata
M. avis-paradisiacae
M. baeuerlenii
M. balsamica
M. bancana
M. basilanica
M. batjanica
M. beccarii
M. beddomei
M. bivalvis
M. bombycina
M. brachiata
M. brachypoda
M. brassii
M. brevistipes
M. buchneriana
M. byssacea
M. cagayanensis
M. canariformis
M. cantleyi
M. capitellata
M. carrii
M. castaneifolia
M. celebica
M. cerifera
M. ceylanica
M. chapelieri
M. chartacea
M. chrysophylla
M. cimicifera
M. cinerea
M. cinnamomea
M. clarkeana
M. clemensii
M. coacta
M. colinridsdalei
M. collettiana
M. commersonii
M. concinna
M. conspersa
M. contorta
M. contracta
M. cookii
M. coriacea
M. cornutiflora
M. corticata
M. corticosa
M. costata
M. costulata
M. crassa
M. crassifolia
M. crassinervis
M. crassipes
M. cucullata
M. cumingii
M. curtisii
M. cylindrocarpa
M. dactyloides
M. dardaini
M. dasycarpa
M. debilis
M. depressa
M. devogelii
M. diversifolia
M. duplopunctata
M. duthiei
M. elegans
M. elliptica
M. ensifolia
M. erratica
M. eugeniifolia
M. euryocarpa
M. extensa
M. fallax
M. faroensis
M. farquhariana
M. fasciculata
M. filipes
M. finlaysoniana
M. firmipes
M. fissiflora
M. fissurata
M. flavovirens
M. flocculosa
M. flosculosa
M. forbesii
M. fragrans
M. frugifera
M. fugax
M. furfurascerts


M. fusca
M. fusiformis
M. gamblei
M. garciniifolia
M. gardneri
M. geminata
M. gibbosa
M. gigantea
M. gillespieana
M. glauca
M. globosa
M. gordoniifolia
M. gracilipes
M. grandifolia
M. grandis
M. griffithii
M. guadalcanalensis
M. guatteriifolia
M. guillauminiana
M. hackenbergii
M. hellwigii
M. heritierifolia
M. heterophylla
M. hollrungii
M. hooglandii
M. horsfieldia
M. hostmanni
M. hypargyraea
M. hyposticta
M. impressa
M. impressinervia
M. inaequalis
M. incredibilis
M. iners
M. ingens
M. ingrata
M. inopinata
M. insipida
M. intermedia
M. inundata
M. inutilis
M. irya
M. iteophylla
M. johnsii
M. kajewskii
M. kalkmanii
M. kjellbergii
M. koordersii
M. korthalsii
M. kunstleri
M. kurzii
M. laevifolia
M. laevigata
M. laevis
M. lakilaki
M. lasiocarpa
M. laurella
M. laurina
M. laxiflora
M. lemanniana
M. lenta
M. lepidota
M. leptophylla
M. leucoxyla
M. litoralis
M. longipes
M. longipetiolata
M. lowiana
M. macgregori
M. macrantha
M. macrocarpa
M. macrocarya
M. macrocoma
M. macrothyrsa
M. magnifica
M. maingayi
M. majuscula
M. malabarica
M. malayana
M. mandaharan
M. mannii
M. markgraviana
M. mascula
M. maxima
M. mediovibex
M. mediterranea
M. micrantha
M. microcarpa
M. microcephala
M. millepunctata
M. mindanaensis
M. mindorensis
M. miohu
M. missionis
M. mollissima
M. mouchio
M. multinervia
M. murtoni
M. myrmecophila
M. nana
M. neglecta
M. negrosensis
M. nesophila
M. niobue
M. niohne
M. nitida
M. nivea
M. oblongifolia
M. olivacea
M. orinocensis


M. ornata
M. ovicarpa
M. pachycarpidia
M. pachyphylla
M. pachythyrsa
M. palawanensis
M. paludicola
M. papillatifolia
M. papuana
M. papyracea
M. parviflora
M. pectinata
M. pedicellata
M. peltata
M. pendulina
M. perlaevis
M. petiolata
M. philippensis
M. pilosella
M. pilosigemma
M. pinnaeformis
M. platysperma
M. plumeriifolia
M. polyantha
M. polyspherula
M. pseudoargentea
M. psilocarpa
M. pubicarpa
M. pulchra
M. pumila
M. pygmaea
M. quercicarpa
M. racemosa
M. radja
M. resinosa
M. retusa
M. ridleyana
M. ridleyi
M. riedelii
M. robusta
M. rosselensis
M. rubiginosa
M. rubrinervis
M. rumphii
M. sagotiana
M. salomonensis
M. sangowoensis
M. sapida
M. sarcantha
M. schlechteri
M. schleinitzii
M. schumanniana
M. scortechinii
M. scripta
M. sericea
M. sesquipedalis
M. simiarum
M. simulans
M. sinclairii
M. smythiesii
M. sogeriensis
M. spanogheana
M. sphaerosperma
M. sphaerula
M. spicata
M. sprucei
M. stenophylla
M. suavis
M. subalulata
M. subglobosa
M. subtilis
M. succadanea
M. succosa
M. sulcata
M. suluensis
M. sumbavana
M. superba
M. tamrauensis
M. teijsmannii
M. tenuivenia
M. teysmanni
M. tingens
M. tomentella
M. tomentosa
M. trianthera
M. tristis
M. tuberculata
M. tubiflora
M. ultrabasica
M. umbellata
M. umbrosa
M. uncinata
M. undulatifolia
M. urdanetensis
M. uviformis
M. valida
M. velutina
M. verruculosa
M. villosa
M. vinkeana
M. vordermanni
M. wallaceana
M. wallichii
M. warburgii
M. wenzelii
M. womersleyi
M. wrayi
M. wyatt-smithii
M. yunnanensis
M. zeylanica

List sources : [2][3][4]

Culinary uses

Nutmeg and mace have similar taste qualities, nutmeg having a slightly sweeter and mace a more delicate flavour. Mace is often preferred in light dishes for the bright orange, saffron-like hue it imparts. Nutmeg is a tasty addition to cheese sauces and is best grated fresh (see nutmeg grater). Nutmeg is a traditional ingredient in mulled cider, mulled wine, and eggnog.

In Penang cuisine, nutmeg is made into pickles and these pickles are even shredded as toppings on the uniquely Penang Ais Kacang. Nutmeg is also blended (creating a fresh, green, tangy taste and white colour juice) or boiled (resulting in a much sweeter and brown juice) to make Iced Nutmeg juice or as it is called in Penang Hokkien, "Lau Hau Peng".

In Indian cuisine, nutmeg is used in many sweet as well as savoury dishes (predominantly in Mughlai cuisine). It is known as Jaiphal in most parts of India and as Jatipatri and Jathi seed in Kerala. It may also be used in small quantities in garam masala. Ground nutmeg is also smoked in India.[citation needed]

In Middle Eastern cuisine, nutmeg grounds are often used as a spice for savoury dishes. In Arabic, nutmeg is called Jawzt at-Tiyb.

In Greece and Cyprus nutmeg is called μοσχοκάρυδο (moschokarydo) (Greek: "musky nut") and is used in cooking and savoury dishes.

In European cuisine, nutmeg and mace are used especially in potato dishes and in processed meat products; they are also used in soups, sauces, and baked goods. In Dutch cuisine nutmeg is quite popular, it is added to vegetables like Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and string beans.

Japanese varieties of curry powder include nutmeg as an ingredient.

In the Caribbean, nutmeg is often used in drinks such as the Bushwacker, Painkiller, and Barbados rum punch. Typically it is just a sprinkle on the top of the drink.

Essential oils

Nutmeg seeds

The essential oil is obtained by the steam distillation of ground nutmeg and is used heavily in the perfumery and pharmaceutical industries. The oil is colourless or light yellow, and smells and tastes of nutmeg. It contains numerous components of interest to the oleochemical industry, and is used as a natural food flavouring in baked goods, syrups, beverages, and sweets. It replaces ground nutmeg as it leaves no particles in the food. The essential oil is also used in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries, for instance, in toothpaste, and as a major ingredient in some cough syrups. In traditional medicine nutmeg and nutmeg oil were used for illnesses related to the nervous and digestive systems.

Nutmeg butter

Nutmeg butter is obtained from the nut by expression. It is semi-solid, reddish brown in colour, and tastes and smells of nutmeg. Approximately 75% (by weight) of nutmeg butter is trimyristin, which can be turned into myristic acid, a 14-carbon fatty acid which can be used as a replacement for cocoa butter, can be mixed with other fats like cottonseed oil or palm oil, and has applications as an industrial lubricant.


Mace (red) within nutmeg fruit

There is some evidence to suggest that Roman priests may have burned nutmeg as a form of incense, although this is disputed. It is known to have been used as a prized and costly spice in medieval cuisine, used as flavourings, medicines, preserving agents, that were at the time highly valued in European markets. Saint Theodore the Studite ( ca. 758 – ca. 826) was famous for allowing his monks to sprinkle nutmeg on their pease pudding when required to eat it. In Elizabethan times it was believed that nutmeg could ward off the plague, so nutmeg was very popular.[citation needed]

The small Banda Islands were the world's only source of nutmeg and mace. Nutmeg was traded by Arabs during the Middle Ages and sold to the Venetians for exorbitant prices, but the traders did not divulge the exact location of their source in the profitable Indian Ocean trade and no European was able to deduce their location.

In August 1511, on behalf of the king of Portugal, Afonso de Albuquerque conquered Malacca, which at the time was the hub of Asian trade. In November of that year, after having secured Malacca and learning of the Bandas' location, Albuquerque sent an expedition of three ships led by his good friend António de Abreu to find them. Malay pilots, either recruited or forcibly conscripted, guided them via Java, the Lesser Sundas and Ambon to Banda, arriving in early 1512.[5] The first Europeans to reach the Bandas, the expedition remained in Banda for about one month, purchasing and filling their ships with Banda's nutmeg and mace, and with cloves in which Banda had a thriving entrepôt trade.[6] The first written accounts of Banda are in Suma Oriental, a book written by the Portuguese apothecary Tomé Pires based in Malacca from 1512 to 1515. But full control of this trade was not possible and they remained largely participants, rather than overlords since the authority Ternate held over the nutmeg-growing centre of the Banda Islands was quite limited. Therefore, the Portuguese failed to gain a foothold in the islands themselves.

The trade in nutmeg later became dominated by the Dutch in the 17th century. The British and Dutch engaged in prolonged struggles to gain control of Run island, then the only source of nutmeg. At the end of the Second Anglo-Dutch War the Dutch gained control of Run in exchange for the British controlling New Amsterdam (New York) in North America.

The Dutch managed to establish control over the Banda Islands after an extended military campaign that culminated in the massacre or expulsion of most of the islands' inhabitants in 1621. Thereafter, the Banda Islands were run as a series of plantation estates, with the Dutch mounting annual expeditions in local war-vessels to extirpate nutmeg trees planted elsewhere.

As a result of the Dutch interregnum during the Napoleonic Wars, the English took temporary control of the Banda Islands from the Dutch and transplanted nutmeg trees to their own colonial holdings elsewhere, notably Zanzibar and Grenada. Today, a stylised split-open nutmeg fruit is found on the national flag of Grenada.

Connecticut gets its nickname ("the Nutmeg State", "Nutmegger") from the legend that some unscrupulous Connecticut traders would whittle "nutmeg" out of wood, creating a "wooden nutmeg" (a term which came to mean any fraud) [2].

World production

Commercial jar of nutmeg mace

World production of nutmeg is estimated to average between 10,000 and 12,000 tonnes (9,800 and 12,000 long tons) per year with annual world demand estimated at 9,000 tonnes (8,900 long tons); production of mace is estimated at 1,500 to 2,000 tonnes (1,500 to 2,000 long tons). Indonesia and Grenada dominate production and exports of both products with a world market share of 75% and 20% respectively. Other producers include India, Malaysia (especially Penang where the trees are native within untamed areas), Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, and Caribbean islands such as St. Vincent. The principal import markets are the European Community, the United States, Japan, and India. Singapore and the Netherlands are major re-exporters.

At one time, nutmeg was one of the most valuable spices. It has been said that in England, several hundred years ago, a few nutmeg nuts could be sold for enough money to enable financial independence for life.

The first harvest of nutmeg trees takes place 7–9 years after planting and the trees reach their full potential after 20 years.

Psychoactivity and toxicity

In low doses, nutmeg produces no noticeable physiological or neurological response.

Nutmeg contains myristicin, a weak monoamine oxidase inhibitor. Myristicin poisoning can induce convulsions, palpitations, nausea, eventual dehydration, and generalized body pain[7]. It is also reputed to be a strong deliriant.[8]

Fatal myristicin poisonings in humans are very rare, but two have been reported, in an 8-year-old child[9] and a 55-year-old adult[10].

Myristicin poisoning is also potentially deadly to pets and livestock even in culinary quantities. For this reason, for example, it is recommended not to feed eggnog to dogs[11].

Use as a recreational drug

Use of nutmeg as a recreational drug is unpopular due to its strong taste and its possible negative side effects, including dizziness, flushes, dry mouth, accelerated heartbeat, temporary constipation, difficulty in urination, nausea, and panic. In addition, experiences usually last well over 24 hours and sometimes in excess of 48 hours, making recreational use rather impractical.[citation needed]

Speculative comparisons between the effects of nutmeg intoxication and MDMA (ecstasy) have been made.[12]

In his autobiography, Malcolm X mentions incidences of prison inmates consuming nutmeg powder, usually diluted in a glass of water, in order to become inebriated. The prison guards eventually catch on to this practice and crack down on nutmeg's use as a psychoactive in the prison system. In William Burrough's appendix of Naked Lunch, he mentions nutmeg causing a similar experience to marijuana but instead of relieving nausea, it causes it.

Toxicity during pregnancy

Nutmeg was once considered an abortifacient, but may be safe for culinary use during pregnancy. However, it inhibits prostaglandin production and contains hallucinogens that may affect the fetus if consumed in large quantities.[13]

See also

  • Run (island): Seventeenth-century British-Dutch rivalry for a source of nutmegs.


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ GRIN. "Species in GRIN for genus Myristica". Taxonomy for Plants. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland: USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Retrieved March 10, 2010. 
  3. ^ "Query Results for Genus Myristica". IPNI. Retrieved March 10, 2010. 
  4. ^ "Name - Myristica Gronov. subordinate taxa". Tropicos. Saint Louis, Missouri: Missouri Botanical Garden. Retrieved March 10, 2010. 
  5. ^ Hannard (1991), page 7; Milton, Giles (1999). Nathaniel's Nutmeg. London: Sceptre. pp. 5 and 7. ISBN 978-0-340-69676-7. 
  6. ^ Hannard (1991), page 7
  7. ^ "BMJ". 
  8. ^ "Erowid". 
  9. ^ "The Use of Nutmeg as a Psychotropic Agent". 
  10. ^ "Nutmeg (myristicin) poisoning--report on a fatal case and a series of cases recorded by a poison information centre". 
  11. ^ "Don't Feed Your Dog Toxic Foods". 
  12. ^ "MDMA". 
  13. ^ Herb and drug safety chart Herb and drug safety chart from BabyCentre UK


  • Shulgin, A. T., Sargent, T. W., & Naranjo, C. (1967). Chemistry and psychopharmacology of nutmeg and of several related phenylisopropylamines. United States Public Health Service Publication 1645: 202–214.
  • Gable, R. S. (2006). The toxicity of recreational drugs. American Scientist 94: 206–208.
  • Devereux, P. (1996). Re-Visioning the Earth: A Guide to Opening the Healing Channels Between Mind and Nature. New York: Fireside. pp. 261–262.
  • Milton, Giles (1999), Nathaniel's Nutmeg: How One Man's Courage Changed the Course of History
  • Erowid Nutmeg Information

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

NUTMEG (from "nut," and O. Fr. mugue, musk, Lat. muscus), the commercial name of a spice representing the kernel of the seed of Myristica fragrans (fig. 5), a dioecious evergreen tree, about 50 to 60 ft. high, found wild in the Banda Islands and a few of the neighbouring islands, extending to New Guinea.

Nutmeg and mace are almost exclusively obtained from the Banda Islands, although the cultivation has been attempted with varying success in Singapore, Penang, Bengal, Reunion, Brazil, French Guiana and the West Indies. The trees yield fruit in eight From Strasburger's Lehrbuch der Botanik, by permission of Gustav Fischer. FIG. 1. - Myristica fragrans. (Official.) 1. Twig with male flowers (2 nat. size).

2. Ripe pendulous fruit opening.

3. Fruit after removal of one-half of the pericarp, showing the dark brown seed surrounded by the ruptured arillus.

4. Kernel freed from the seed-coat.

years after sowing the seed, reach their prime in twenty-five years, and bear for sixty years or longer. Almost the whole surface of the Banda Islands is planted with nutmeg trees, which thrive under the shade of the lofty Canarium commune. In Bencoolen the tree bears all the year round, but the chief harvest takes place in the later months of the year, and a smaller one in April, May and June. The ripe fruit is about 2 in. in diameter, of a ?. rounded pear-shape, and when mature splits into two, exposing a crimson arillus surrounding a single seed (figs. r, 2). When the fruit is collected the pericarp is first removed; then the arillus is carefully stripped off and dried, in which state it forms the mace of commerce. The seed consists of a thin, hard testa or shell, enclosing a wrinkled kernel, which, when dried, is the nutmeg. The kernel consists mainly of the abundant endosperm, which is firm, whitish in colour and marbled with numerous reddish-brown vein-like partitions, into which the inner seedcoat penetrates, forming what is known botanically as ruminated endosperm.

To prepare the nutmegs for use, the seed enclosing the kernel is dried at a gentle heat in a drying-house over a smouldering fire for about two months, the seeds being turned every second or third day. When thoroughly dried the shells are broken with a wooden mallet or flat board and the nutmegs picked out and sorted, the smaller and inferior ones being reserved for the expression of the fixed oil which they contain, and which forms the so-called oil of mace.

The dried nutmegs are then rubbed over with dry sifted lime.

The process of liming, which originated at the time when the Dutch held a monopoly of the trade, was with the view of preventing the germination of the seeds, which were formerly immersed for three months in milk of lime for this purpose, and a preference is still manifested in some countries for nutmegs so prepared. It has, however, been shown that this treatment is by no means necessary, since exposure to the sun for a week destroys the vitality of the kernel. Penang nutmegs are never limed. The entire fruit preserved in syrup is used as a sweetmeat in the Dutch East Indies.

"Oil of mace," or nutmeg butter, is a solid fatty substance of a reddish-brown colour, obtained by grinding the refuse nutmegs to a fine powder, enclosing it in bags and steaming it over large cauldrons for five or six hours, and then compressing it while still warm between powerful wedges, the brownish fluid which flows out being afterwards allowed to solidify. Nutmegs yield about one-fourth of their weight of this substance. It is partly dissolved by cold alcohol, the remainder being soluble in ether. The latter portion, about Io% of the weight of the nutmegs, consists chiefly of myristin, which is a compound of myristic acid, C 14 H 28 0 2, with glycerin. The fat which is soluble in alcohol appears to consist, according to Schmidt and Roemer (Arch. Pharnt. [3], xxi. 34-48), of free myristic and stearic acids; the brown colouring matter has not been satisfactorily investigated. Nutmeg butter yields on distillation with water a volatile oil to the extent of about 6%, consisting almost entirely of a hydrocarbon called myristicene, CioHis, boiling at 165° C. It is accompanied by a small quantity of an oxygenated oil, myristicol, isomeric with carvol, but differing from it in not forming a crystalline compound with hydrosulphuric acid. Mace contains a similar volatile oil, macene, boiling at 160° C., which is said by Cloi z to differ from that of nutmegs in yielding a solid compound when treated with hydrochloric acid gas.

The name nutmeg is also applied to other fruits or seeds in different countries. The Jamaica or calabash nutmeg is derived from Monodora Myristica, the Brazilian from Cryptocarya moschata, the Peruvian from Laurelia sempervirens, the Madagascar or clove nutmeg from Agathophyllum aromaticum, and the Californian or stinking nutmeg from Torreya Myristica. The cotyledons.of Nectandra Puchury were at one time offered in England as nutmegs.

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Up to date as of January 23, 2010
(Redirected to Cookbook:Nutmeg article)

From Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection


Cookbook | Recipes | Ingredients | Spices and herbs

Nutmeg and mace are two spices derived from the same plant, the nutmeg tree (Myristica fragrans). The nutmeg tree is indigenous to the Banda Islands of Indonesia but is also grown in the Caribbean (eg. Grenada). Several commercial products are produced from the nutmeg tree, nutmeg and mace being the best known. Nutmeg is the actual seed of the tree, roughly egg-shaped and about an inch long, while mace is the dried "lacy", reddish covering of the seed.

Other products include their essential oils. Other nutmeg tree species include the M. argentea which produces 'Papuan' nutmegs from Papua (Indonesia) and Papua New Guinea, and M. malabarica which produces 'Bombay' nutmegs from India; both are used as adulterants of M. fragrans products.

The spices in their ground form are mainly used in the food processing industry, principally in the seasoning of meat products; they are also used in soups, sauces, baked goods and spice mixes such as curry powder in Japan. Both spices have similar taste qualities; mace is more popular in light coloured foods because of its light orange colour. Mace (edited from "Nutmeg"), in general, tends to be sweeter and more delicate.

The essential oil is obtained by the steam distillation of ground nutmeg. The oil is colorless or light yellow and smells and tastes of nutmeg. Essential nutmeg oil as such is used as natural food flavouring in baked goods, syrups, beverages (e.g., cola), sweets etc. It replaces ground nutmeg as it leaves no particles in the food.

Nutmeg is extremely toxic when injected intravenously. Excessive consumption of the spice is also dangerous and can lead to death. Nutmeg can also cause hallucinations when taken in excess, along with nausea, dehydration, and generalised body pain.

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