Strausbaugh, Perry D. Department of Botany, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia.
Core, Earl L. Department of Biology, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia.
Last reviewed:January 2021
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A delicately flavored spice obtained from the nutmeg tree (Myristica fragrans), a native of the Moluccas (Maluku Islands or Spice Islands). The nutmeg tree is a dark-leafed evergreen that can reach 9–18 m (30–60 ft) in height and is a member of the nutmeg family (Myristicaceae). The golden-yellow, mature fruits (see illustration) resemble apricots. They gradually lose moisture and, when completely ripe, the husk (pericarp) splits open, exposing the shiny brown seed covered with a red, fibrous, aromatic aril, which is the mace. The kernel inside the seed coat is the nutmeg of commerce. Fruits are produced throughout the year and are picked when the husks split open. The mace is removed from the husks, flattened, and dried. It is used in making pickles, ketchup, and sauces. After the seeds are thoroughly dried, the shells are cracked off. Then, the kernels are removed and sorted; they are often treated with lime to prevent damage by insects. Grated nutmeg is used in custards, puddings, and other sweet dishes, and it is often added as a flavor for various beverages. Nutmeg oil is used in medicine, perfumery, and dentifrices, as well as in the tobacco industry. The chief constituents of this essential oil are myristin, pinene, and dipentene. See also: Essential oils; Magnoliales; Spice and flavoring
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