Nutmeg

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

See text

The nutmeg tree is any of 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 (or Spice Islands) of Indonesia. 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. The first harvest of nutmeg trees takes place 7–9 years after planting, and the trees reach full production after 20 years. Nutmeg is usually used in powdered form. 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 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 southern 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.

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Botany and cultivation

Myristica fragrans tree in Goa, India.
Nutmegs on a tree in Kerala, India
Nutmeg that can be found in Raigad

Nutmeg is a dioecious plant which is propagated sexually and asexually, the latter being the standard. Sexual propagation by seedling yields 50% male seedlings, which are unproductive. As there is no reliable method of determining plant sex before flowering in the sixth to eighth year, and sexual propagation bears inconsistent yields, grafting is the preferred method of propagation. Epicotyl grafting, approach grafting and patch budding have proved successful, epicotyl grafting being the most widely adopted standard. Air-layering, or marcotting, is an alternative, though not preferred, method, because of its low (35-40%) success rate.