Nutmeg (Fr. noix muscade), the seed of the tree myristica fragrans, which has also been called M. moschata, M. officinalis, etc. The genus myristica is now placed in an order by itself, the myristicece, which is exogenous and apetalous, and closely related to the laurel family. All of the genus are tropical, being most abundant in the islands of Asia, though some are found in tropical America. The true nutmeg tree is 20 to 30 ft. high, and has much the aspect of a pear tree; its smoothish gray bark abounds in a yellowish juice. The slightly aromatic leaves are petioled and alternate, 5 to 6 in. long, oblong, acute at the apex, entire, dark green and somewhat shining above, and whitish beneath. The tree is dioecious, but except when in flower the two sexes are not distinguishable. The male or staminate flowers are in small clusters of three to five, much resemble in shape and size those of the lily of the valley, and have three to five teeth at the apex; they are fleshy, pale yellow, very fragrant, and within have about 11 stamens, the filaments of which are united to form a column surmounted by a disk, to the edges of which the anthers are attached.

The pistillate flowers are externally similar to the staminate, but usually solitary; the single pistil is without a style, and has a small two-lobed stigma. The fruit is pear-shaped or nearly spherical, about the size of the peach, and consists of a fleshy pericarp or capsule, which at maturity breaks open in two nearly equal valves, and exposes the contained seed and its appendages; this exterior portion of the fruit is about half an inch thick, of a yellowish brown color, and has an astringent juice; in collecting the crop this is thrown away as useless, but in its young state it is sometimes made into a sweetmeat with brandy and sugar. Within this husk is the seed, surrounded by a fleshy, much divided, bright scarlet arillus, a growth which starts from the funiculus, or little stalk which supports the ovule, and increases as that ripens, and at maturity it envelops the seed so completely that there are only here and there a few apertures through which it is visible; the arillus in drying loses its scarlet color and becomes yellowish brown, horny in texture, and brittle; it is then known as mace.

The seed or nut within the mace has a hard, dark brown shell, about a line thick, enclosing the kernel or nucleus, which is the nutmeg of commerce; this is pale brown, and smooth when freshly deprived of its shell, but it becomes much wrinkled by drying; it consists principally of the large albumen of the seed, closely invested by a very thin inner covering, folds or processes from which penetrate the albumen and give it the well known marbled appearance; the albumen abounds in oil, which is chiefly contained in the dark veins; the embryo, lodged in a cavity at the base of the albumen, has two fan-shaped cotyledons and a very short radicle. The nutmeg tree is a native of the Moluccas, and has long been cultivated, especially in the group known as the Banda islands. The plants come into bearing in about eight years from the seed, and reach their maximum productiveness in 15 years; they are said to continue in bearing for 70 or 80 years. While the tree has ripe fruit upon it at all seasons, there are three periods of harvesting: July and August, when the fruit is most abundant, but the mace thinner than at the second harvest; November, when the nuts are smaller, with thicker mace; and March or early April, when both nuts and mace are in the greatest perfection, but the season being dry their number is not so great.

The average product is about 5 lbs. of nutmegs and 1½ lb). of mace to each tree. The fruit is gathered by means of a barb at the end of a long stick; the outer husk is removed, and the mace carefully separated by means of a knife; this is then dried in the sun, or in wet weather by artificial heat; some flatten out the mace witli the hands, and dry it in a single layer, while others dry it in double blades; when it has attained the desired golden-brown color it is sprinkled with salt water, which is said to aid in its preservation, and packed in sacks for exportation. The nutmegs are placed upon gratings over a slow fire, and dried at a heat not exceeding '140° F. until the nut rattles freely in the shell, an operation requiring about two months; the shells, then very brittle, are broken with a mallet, and the nutmegs separated. In some localities the nutmegs are dipped in milk of lime, with a view to prevent the attacks of insects, as well as to destroy their power of germinating. They have been sometimes exported in their shells, in order to preserve them more completely; but this increases the cost of transportation about one third. They are exported in tight casks which have been thoroughly smoked and then coated on the interior with lime wash.

The true or round nutmeg is olive-shaped, and about an inch long, marked externally with a network of furrows which in limed nuts are filled with the lime; in the unlimed the surface is ashy brown, and they are known as brown nutmegs; internally the color is a pale reddish gray, with darker veins. Their odor is strongly aromatic, and, as well as the taste, pleasant and peculiar. The odor and the taste of mace, while closely analogous to those of nutmeg, are sufficiently distinct to be readily recognized; both contain a volatile oil, upon which their flavor and aroma depend, as well as a solid and a liquid fat." According to Bonastre, nutmegs contain, in 100 parts, volatile oil 6, liquid fat 7'6, solid fat 24, woody fibre 54, besides starch, gum, etc. The volatile oil is obtained by distilling the nutmegs with water; it is colorless or pale yellow, somewhat viscid, and possesses in a high degree the characteristic odor and flavor of nutmegs. The solid fat, known as the expressed oil of nutmegs, butter of nutmegs, and oil of mace, is obtained by heating the nutmegs to a paste and expressing this, after exposure in a bag to steam, between heated plates.

It is imported in cubes of the size and shape of a brick; it is orange-colored and firm, and has the odor of nutmegs from a portion of the volatile oil it contains; it was formerly used as a stimulant external application, and as an ingredient in plasters. The chief use of both nutmegs and mace is as a condiment, especially for flavoring preparations of milk and farinaceous substances. In Germany nutmeg is thought to promote the digestion of brassicaceous plants, and is often used in dressing cabbage and cauliflower. Medicinally nutmeg ranks as an aromatic stimulant, with narcotic powers in large doses. Two drachms have been known to produce drowsiness, followed by complete stupor and insensibility; in mild diarrhoea it is regarded as a useful substitute for opium in doses of 20 to 30 grs. It is used in substance or in the form of spirrt of nutmeg, to cover the taste or modify the action of purgative and other medicines. As nutmegs are not sold in the powdered state, they are not so subject to adulteration as are most other spices. If the volatile oil has been extracted by distillation, the nutmegs will be appreciably lighter; their quality can be judged by their weight when handled, and by the oozing out of the oil when the surface is pricked with a pin.

According to Chevallier, old nuts which have become riddled by insects have their holes stopped by a mixture of flour, oil, and powdered nutmegs; and in Marseilles false nuts have been fabricated from bran, clay, and the refuse of nutmegs. In either case the fraud may be readily detected by soaking the suspected sample in water. - The long or wild nutmeg is the produce of myristica fatua, found in similar localities with the true nutmeg; it is about 1½ in. long, and pointed. This is the "male nutmeg " of the older writers; it is greatly inferior to the round nutmeg, some specimens being almost without flavor; it is rarely to be met with in this country; the mace of this species, called wild or false mace, is nearly devoid of flavor. It is said that the long nutmeg is sometimes mixed with the round, an adulteration at once detected by the eye. Several other species of myristica yield nutmegs of inferior quality. Seeds of the South American M. Mcuiba and M. officinalis have their faint aroma changed by some bitter principle; the seeds of the West Indian M. sebifera, when treated with hot water, yield a fat of which candles are made. - For a long time the Dutch had a monopoly of nutmeg culture, and made great efforts to preserve it.

They were possessors of the Banda group, consisting of ten islands, and restricted the cultivation of nutmegs to four of these, destroying the trees in all their other possessions. They made wars upon the inhabitants of islands not belonging to them, and in their treaties of peace stipulated that every nutmeg tree should be destroyed. The carrying of trees or fresh seed from these islands was prohibited under heavy penalties, and the liming of the nuts was done quite as much to kill the embryo as to prevent the attacks of insects. In order to keep the price up to their standard, the surplus crop in years of unusual abundance was burned; a Dutch writer states that he saw three piles of nutmegs burned, "each of which was more than a church of ordinary dimensions could hold." But nature was not in sympathy with this narrow policy, and, by means against which the most rigid laws were powerless, the tree was distributed to numerous other localities; the agent in effecting this was the nutmeg pigeon, carpopliaga oenea, a fine large species found in all the Indian islands; this bird lives largely upon the fresh mace, swallowing the nutmeg with its enveloping mace, and, after this is removed by digestion, voiding the nutmeg encased in its shell, unharmed, and ready to vegetate if dropped in a favorable spot.

Localities of which the Dutch lid not even know the existence were thus stocked with the trees; a most fortunate provision, as in 1778 a violent hurricane and earthquake visited the Banda islands, which for years afterward furnished but few nutmegs. From 1796 to 1802, and again from 1810 to -814, the English had possession of the Spice islands, and during these intervals the nutmeg tree was taken to various parts of the East, to the Calcutta botanic garden, to Mauritius' French Guiana, and the West Indies, and is now beyond the control of any one government. The attempts to cultivate the tree in the West Indies have not been successful; the original trees, though they have grown to a large size, bear but a small number of fruits. The nutmegs of the Banda islands are sent to Batavia, whence they are exported; in 1871 1,080,933 lbs. were shipped from Batavia, of which 306,666 lbs. came to this country, and a larger quantity went to Singapore, from which place there were exported to the United States in the same year 310,576 lbs. - American, calabash, and Jamaica nutmegs are names given to the seeds of monodora myristica, a small West Indian tree of the order anonacea, and related to our custard apple or papaw.

Its fruit is about the size of an orange, with numerous seeds having the flavor of nutmeg. California nutmeg is the fruit of Torreya Californica. (See Torreya.) Peruvian nutmegs are the aromatic seeds of laurelia semperxirens. Brazilian nutmegs are the seeds of cryptocarya moscliata, one of the laurel family.

Nutmeg Flower and Leaf (Myristica fragrans).

Nutmeg Flower and Leaf (Myristica fragrans).

1. Nutmeg Fruit. 2. Seed with its arillus. 8. Seed cut vertically.

1. Nutmeg Fruit. 2. Seed with its arillus. 8. Seed cut vertically.