Botanically known as Myristica fragrans, the nutmeg tree originates in Banda, the largest of the Molucca spice islands of Indonesia. The English word nutmeg comes from the latin nux, meaning nut, and muscat, meaning musky.
In the first century A.D., Roman author Pliny speaks of a tree bearing nuts with two flavors. Emperor Henry VI had the streets of Rome fumigated with nutmegs before his coronation. In the the sixth century, nutmegs were brought by Arab merchants to Constantinople. In the fourteenth century, half a kilogram of nutmeg cost as much as three sheep or a cow.
The Dutch waged a bloody war, including the massacre and enslavement of the inhabitants of the island of Banda, just to control nutmeg production in the East Indies. In 1760, the price of nutmeg in London was 85 to 90 shillings per pound, a price kept artificially high by the Dutch voluntarily burning full warehouses of nutmegs in Amsterdam. The Dutch held control of the spice islands until World War II.
Frenchman Pierre Poivre transported nutmeg seedlings to Mauritius where they flourished, aiding in ending the Dutch monopoly of the spice. The British East India Company brought the nutmeg tree to Penang, Singapore, India, Sri Lanka, the West Indies, and most notably Grenada, where it is the national symbol and proudly emblazoned on the country’s red, yellow, and green flag.
The nutmeg tree is evergreen, with oblong egg-shaped leaves and small, bell-like light yellow flowers that give off a distinct aroma when in bloom. The fruit is light yellow with red and green markings, resembling an apricot or a large plum. As the fruit matures, the outer fleshy covering (which is candied or pickled as snacks in Malaysia) bursts to reveal the seed. The seed is covered with red membranes called an aril, the mace portion of the nutmeg. The nut is then dried for up to 2 months until the inner nut rattles inside the shell. It is then shelled to reveal the valuable egg-shaped nutmeat which is the edible nutmeg. Second-rate nuts are pressed for the oil, which is used in perfumes and in the food industry.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup mashed bananas, very ripe
1/3 cup oil
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat miniature muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray or line with paper baking cups.
- In a large bowl, combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, salt and allspice. Mix well.
- Beat the egg in a small bowl. Add the buttermilk, Banana, and oil. Mix well. Add to the dry ingredients. Stir just until the dry ingredients are moistened.
- Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until light golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Immediately remove muffins from the pan. Serve warm.
- These spices come from the same plant, nutmeg is the seed and mace is the outer covering. This spice is expensive but has lot of medicinal values.
- It helps in digestion and relieves nausea, vomiting, flatulence and diarrhoea.
The nutmeg should be powdered and mixed with honey and can be taken during diarrhoea. It can be given to small children also 1 teaspoon twice or thrice can be taken.
- Large quantity can have harmful effects like miscarriage.
One study has shown that the compound macelignan isolated from Myristica fragrans (Myristicaceae) may exert antimicrobial activity against Streptococcus mutans, but this is not a currently used treatment.
Nutmeg has been used in medicine since at least the seventh century. In the 19th century it was used as an abortifacient, which led to numerous recorded cases of nutmeg poisoning. Although used as a folk treatment for other ailments, nutmeg has no proven medicinal value today.