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| Myristica fragrans|
About 100 species, including:
Nutmeg is the actual seed of the tree, roughly egg-shaped and about 20–30 mm long and 15–18 mm wide, and weighing between 5 and 10 grams dried, while mace is the dried "lacy" reddish covering or arillus of the seed.
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 sliced finely, cooked and crystallised to make a fragrant candy called manisan pala ("nutmeg sweets").
The most important species commercially is the Common or Fragrant Nutmeg Myristica fragrans, native to the Banda Islands of Indonesia; it is also grown in the Caribbean, especially in Grenada. Other species include Papuan Nutmeg M. argentea from New Guinea, and Bombay Nutmeg M. malabarica from India; both are used as adulterants of M. fragrans products.
Nutmeg and mace have similar taste qualities, nutmeg having a slightly sweeter and mace a more delicate flavor. Mace is often preferred in light-coloured dishes for the bright orange, saffron-like colour it imparts. Nutmeg is a flavorsome addition to cheese sauces and is best grated fresh (see nutmeg grater).
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 (e.g. Coca Cola), beverages, sweets etc. 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 tooth paste and as major ingredient in some cough syrups. In traditional medicine nutmeg and nutmeg oil were used for illnesses related to the nervous and digestive systems. Myristicin and elemicin are believed to be the chemical constituents responsible for the subtle hallucinogenic properties of nutmeg oil. Other known chemical ingredients of the oil are α-pinene, sabinene, γ-terpinene and safrole.
Externally, the oil is used for rheumatic pain and, like clove oil, can be applied as an emergency treatment to dull toothache. Put 1–2 drops on a cotton swab, and apply to the gums around an aching tooth until dental treatment can be obtained. In France, it is given in drop doses in honey for digestive upsets and used for bad breath. Use 3–5 drops on a sugar lump or in a teaspoon of honey for nausea, gastroenteritis, chronic diarrhea, and indigestion.
Alternatively a massage oil can be created by diluting 10 drops in 10 ml almond oil. This can be used for muscular pains associated with rheumatism or overexertion. It can also be combined with thyme or rosemary essential oils. To prepare for childbirth, massaging the abdomen daily in the three weeks before the baby is due with a mixture of 5 drops nutmeg oil and no more than 5 drops sage oil in 25 ml almond oil has been suggested.
Nutmeg butter is obtained from the nut by expression. It is semi solid and 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 replacement for cocoa butter, can be mixed with other fats like cottonseed oil or palm oil, and has applications as an industrial lubricant.
There is some evidence 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. 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. Nutmeg was traded by Arabs during the Middle Ages in the profitable Indian Ocean trade.
In the late 15th century, Portugal started trading in the Indian Ocean, including nutmeg, under the Treaty of Tordesillas with Spain and a separate treaty with the sultan of Ternate. 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 and intrigue to gain control of Run island, then the only source of nutmegs. 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) .
World production of nutmeg is estimated to average between 10,000 and 12,000 tonnes per year with annual world demand estimated at 9,000 tonnes; production of mace is estimated at 1,500 to 2,000 tonnes. 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, 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.
Risks and toxicity
In low doses, nutmeg produces no noticeable physiological or neurological response. Large doses of 30 g (~6 teaspoons) or more are dangerous, potentially inducing convulsions, palpitations, nausea, eventual dehydration, and generalized body pain "BMJ". In amounts of 5–20 g (~1-4 teaspoons) it is a mild to medium hallucinogen, producing visual distortions and a mild euphoria. It is a common misconception that nutmeg contains monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). While this is untrue, nutmeg taken in combination with MAOIs may elevate risks. A test was carried out on the substance that showed that, when ingested in large amounts, nutmeg takes on a similar chemical make-up to MDMA (ecstasy). However, use of nutmeg as a recreational drug is unpopular due to its unpleasant taste and its side effects, including dizziness, flushes, dry mouth, accelerated heartbeat, temporary constipation, difficulty in urination, nausea, and panic. A user will not experience a peak until approximately six hours after ingestion, and effects can linger for up to three days afterwards.
A risk in any large-quantity (over 25 g, ~5 teaspoons) ingestion of nutmeg is the onset of 'nutmeg poisoning', an acute psychiatric disorder marked by thought disorder, a sense of impending death, and agitation. Some cases have resulted in hospitalization.
Fatal doses in children are significantly lower, with approximately 15g being sufficient to cause one of only two recorded nutmeg toxicity deaths, in an eight year old child."BMJ".
Nutmeg in literature
Nutmeg appeared to fascinate the 16th-century Europeans, as reflected in this nursery rhyme:
I had a little nut tree,
Nothing would it bear
But a silver nutmeg,
And a golden pear;
The King of Spain's daughter
Came to visit me,
And all for the sake
Of my little nut tree.
Her dress was made of crimson,
Jet black was her hair,
She asked me for my nut tree
And my golden pear.
I said, "So fair a princess
Never did I see,
I'll give you all the fruit
From my little nut tree.
This nursery rhyme is believed to refer to the 1506 visit of the Royal House of Spain to King Henry VII's English court. The 'King of Spain's daughter' refers to the daughter of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. The princess is probably Katherine of Aragon who was betrothed to Prince Arthur, the heir to the English throne. He died, thus Katherine married King Henry VIII. Prince Arthur was reputed to have deformed genitals (his little nut tree would bear nothing) and the 'silver nutmeg' refers to England's spice trade with the East, while the 'golden pear' refers to trade with the West (the golden pear is the ancient Greek Symbol for the Hesperides or West). The Spanish were hoping to gain these by marriage of the Spanish Princess to the English prince, though they were aware there would be no children from the marriage. The last verse is therefore ironic.
Another version has a different ending:
I had a little nut tree,
Nothing would it bear
But a silver nutmeg
And a golden pear.
The King of Spain’s daughter
Came to visit me,
And all for the sake
Of my little nut tree.
I skipped over ocean,
I danced over sea,
And all the birds in the air
Couldn’t catch me.
The last verse in this version is supposed to refer to Prince Arthur's death shortly after he married the Spanish princess.
The 'Benway' chapter of William Burroughs' Naked Lunch devotes a paragraph to Nutmeg use, quoting the British Journal of Addiction and stating among other things: "Result vaguely similar to marijuana with side effects of headache and nausea".
In a June 2007 issue of an underground, anti-Internet magazine called Magazine X (distributed at punk concerts in New York City) states that regular recreational users of nutmeg in New York City refer to themselves as "Nutheads."
- Run (island): Seventeenth-century British-Dutch rivalry for a source of nutmegs, leading to the British exchanging this Indonesian island for Manhattan (New York)
- Giles Milton
- International Spicy Food Day
- 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
- Nutmeg Pericarp
- Nutmeg Jam
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