Nutmeg – Myristica fragrans
Nutmeg (also known as pala in Indonesia) is one of the two spices – the other being mace – derived from several species of tree in the 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.
Nutmeg is the seed of the tree, roughly egg-shaped and about 20 to 30 mm (0.8 to 1.2 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 trees takes place 7–9 years after planting, and the trees reach full production after twenty years. Nutmeg is usually used in powdered form. This is the only tropical fruit that is the source of two different spices, obtained from different parts of the plant. Several other commercial products are also produced from the trees, including essential oils, extracted oleoresins, and nutmeg butter.
The common or fragrant nutmeg, Myristica fragrans, is native to the Banda Islands in the Moluccas, Indonesia. It is also cultivated on Penang Island in Malaysia, in the Caribbean, especially in Grenada, and in Kerala, a state formerly known as Malabar in ancient writings as the hub of spice trading, in southern India. Other species used to adulterate the spice include Papuan nutmeg M. argentea from New Guinea, and M. malabarica from India. In the 17th-century work Hortus Botanicus Malabaricus, Hendrik van Rheede records that Indians learned the usage of nutmeg from the Indonesians through ancient trade routes.
Its trees are dioecious plants which are 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, with 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.
Country of origin: Sri Lanka