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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 (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 are their essential oils[?], extracted oleoresins[?] and nutmeg butter. Other nutmeg tree species include the M. argentea which produces 'Papuan' nutmegs from Irian Jaya 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 because of its light orange colour in light coloured foods. Nutmeg, in general, tends to be sweeter and more delicate. These products are also used in the perfumery and pharmaceutical industries. A possible, future use for nutmeg is as a natural control for insects that infest stored cereal grains.

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

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.

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World production

World production of nutmegs is estimated to average between 10,000 and 12,000 tons per year with annual world demand estimated at 9,000 tons; production of mace is estimated at 1,500 to 2,000 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, Papua New Guinea and Sri Lanka, and other 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.

Essential oil and nutmeg butter

Besides whole nutmeg and mace, the nutmeg tree is also a source for essential oil and nutmeg butter[?].

Essential oil

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 oil contains numerous components of interest to the oleochemical[?] industry. Essential nutmeg oil as such is used as natural food flavouring in baked goods, syrups (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 Vicks cough syrup[?]. In traditional medicine nutmeg and nutmeg oil were used for illnesses related to the nervous and digestive systems. Myristicin in essential oil is probably the responsible agent for the hallucinogenic properties of nutmeg oil.

Nutmeg butter

Nutmeg butter is semi solid and reddish brown in colour. It tastes and smells of nutmeg. 75% of nutmeg butter is trimyristin[?] which can be turned into myristic acid[?], a C14 fatty acid which can be used as replacement for cocoa butter[?] fat, can be mixed with other fats like cottonseed oil[?] or palm oil and has applications as industrial lubricant.


Nutmeg is extremely toxic when injected intravenously. Excessive consumption of the spice is also dangerous and can lead to death.

See also: Junket

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