Mynsticafragrans Houtt.; English—Nutmeg tree; Hindi—Jaiphal (fruit kernel), Japatri (aril)- Bengali—Jaiphal (nut), jotri (aril); Punjabi—Japhal (nut), jauntari (aril); Marathi—Jaiphala (fruit) jayapatn (aril); Gujarati—Jayephal (nut), javantari, japatri (aril); Tamil—Jadikkay (nut), jadi-pattiri (aril); Telugu—Zevangam, jajikaya (nut), japatri (aril); Malayalam—Jatikka (nut), jati-pattiri (aril); Sanskrit—Jajiphalam (nut), jajipatri (aril); Family— Myristicaceae.
It is native of the Moluccas Islands. In India, it is grown in the Nilgiris, Kerala, Mysore, Andhra Pradesh, Assam and West Bengal.
This is a dioecious or rarely monoecious evergreen aromatic tree, usually 30-40 feet high. The bark is greyish black and longitudinally fissured in old trees. The leaves are elliptic or oblong-lanceolate, coriaceous. The flowers are arranged in umbellate cymes.
The flowers are creamy-yellow and fragrant. The fruits are yellow, broadly pyriform or globose, 6-9 cm. long, glabrous often drooping. The pericarp is fleshy, 1.25 cm. thick, splitting into two halves at maturity. The seeds are broadly ovoid, arillate, albuminous, with a shell like purplish brown testa. The aril is red and fleshy.
Cultivation and Propagation:
It requires a hot and moist climate with a rainfall of 150-300 cm. per annum. It grows best at low elevations in alluvium formed of deep friable loam with good drainage, well sheltered from high winds.
The plant is propagated from seeds. Fresh seeds with shells, collected from mature fruits and dried for a day, are sown either directly at the site or in nursery beds, sheltered from wind and strong sun. Seeds are sown 30 cm. apart, 2.5 cm. below the soil in nursery beds and take 2-3 months to germinate. The seedlings are transplanted when 60-90 cm. high to their permanent in the field during wet weather.
The spacing between trees varies from 6-7.5 m., depending upon the gradient and fertility of the soil; wider spacing is adopted in rich level lands. Young plants require shade. This is provided by growing bananas in advance of planting. It may also be cultivated as a mixed crop in orchard, and in coffee, coconut, arecanut and rubber plantations.
In plantations raised from seeds there are usually more male than female trees and the sex is not determined until the plants are 6-7 years old and begin to bear flowers. In order to ensure a sufficient number of female trees in the plantation, two seedlings are planted close together and the one which has proved to be female is retained.
Harvesting and Yield:
Under favourable conditions, the tree starts to bear fruit from the seventh year or earlier and the yield increases upto the fifteenth year or beyond. Trees continue to bear for many years and 70-80 years old trees give good and sustained yields. Fruits are borne more or less throughout the year but the main harvesting season is June- October.
The fruits are picked up every morning from the ground or are gathered from the trees by the use of a long stick to which a hook is attached. Seeds that drop out of split fruits are also gathered. The average annual yield at Burliar is 1,250-4,000 fruits per tree.
Preparation of Nutmeg and Mace:
The harvested ripe fruit with the valves split, discloses the seed with a shell-like testa covered by a scarlet fibrous aril. After collection, the pericarp is removed and the seed separated from the aril and dried. Drying is complete when the kernel rattles in the shell. The shells are cracked off with wooden hammers and the kernels removed and sorted. Dried kernels make the nutmeg of commerce.
Mace is the dried fibrous aril covering the testa. It is obtained by separating the arils and drying in the sun. Mace of superior quality is produced by drying in specially constructed ovens. During drying the arils at first become dark red and brittle, and in about six weeks they become bright amber coloured.
The commercial nutmeg is ovoid, 2.0-3.5 cm. long x 1.5-2.8 cm. diameter, greyish brown in colour with minute reddish brown spots and lines and reticulately furrowed. East Indian nutmeg is of three grades – 1. Banda nutmeg is supposed to be the best which contains upto 8% essential oil; 2. Siauw nutmeg is of second grade containing 6.5% essential oil and 3. Penag nutmeg, which is suitable only for distillation purposes.
The nutmeg contains – Moisture 14.3%; protein 7.5%; ether extract 36.4%; fibre 11.6%; carbohydrates 28.5%; mineral matter 1.7%; calcium 0.12%; phosphorus 0.24%; iron 4.6 mg/100 g.; Nutmeg contains a volatile oil (6-16%), starch (14.6-24.2%); pentosans (2.25%); furfural (1.5%), and pectin (0.5-0.6%). The flavour and therapeutic action are due to the volatile oil.
The percentage of volatile oil varies from 6-16% according to the origin and quality of the spice. Commercial oil is derived from broken and wormy nutmegs. The material is comminuted, pressed to remove fixed oil, and immediately subjected to steam distillation.
The nutmeg oil is a mobile, colourless or pale yellow liquid with a characteristic odour. The major constituents of the oil are d-pinene and d-camphene.
Commercial nutmeg butter, a highly aromatic fat, is obtained from undersized, damaged or worm-eaten kernels which are unfit for sale as spice. The material is ground and cooked or steamed before pressing.
The nutmeg butter is a soft solid, yellow or yellowish red in colour, with the odour and taste of nutmeg.
Commercial mace consists of flattened lobed pieces, 2.5 cm. or more in length, somewhat less in breadth and 1 mm. thick. When soaked in water the lobes swell up and regain their original form. It is dull yellowish red in colour, translucent and brittle. It is nutmeg-like in odour and taste.
There are three grades of mace:
1. Banda mace is supposed to be finest. It is bright orange in colour and possesses fine aroma;
2. Java Estate mace is golden yellow in colour with brilliant crimson streaks;
3. Siauw mace is of light colour and contains less volatile oil.
Mumbai mace is derived from Myristica malabarica, it is dark red in colour and consists of narrow pieces, divided into numerous lobes twisted together at the apex. It is almost devoid of aroma, and is useless as a spice.
Mace contains — Moisture 15.9%; protein 6.5%; ether extract 24.4%; fibre 3.8%; carbohydrates 47.8%; mineral matter 1.6%; calcium 0.18%; phosphorus 0.10%; iron 12.6 mg/100 g. It contains a volatile oil (4-15%; average 10%), amylodextrin (25%), reducing sugars, pectin and resinous colouring matter. The chief constituents are volatile oils and amylodextrin.
Both nutmeg and mace are used as condiment and in medicine. They are commonly used more as a drug than as condiment. Nutmeg is stimulant, carminative, astringent and aphrodisiac. It is used in tonics and forms a constituent of preparations prescribed for dysentery, flatulence, nausea, vomiting, malaria, rheumatism, sciatica and leprosy.
Nutmeg oil and mace are used for flavouring food products and liqueurs. Nutmeg butter is used as mild external stimulant in ointments, hair lotions and plasters, and forms a useful application in case of rheumatism.