Nutmeg’s name is derived from the latin word nux musca-tus, meaning musky nut. The nutmeg spice is the kernel which has hard shell and the size of a small arecanut. Spice is supplied both with and without shell. Outside the shell is the aril, which is another spice, mace. Depending on the type, its flavour can vary from a sweetly spicy to a heavier taste. It has a clove like, spicy, sweet, bitter taste with terpeny, camphor like aroma. It is sweeter in flavour than mace. Nutmeg has essential oil called Myristica (6.5% to 16%). Nutmeg consists of 10% of essential oil. The chemical constituent of the nutmeg are terpene hydrocarbons that includes sabinene and pinenes, camphene, p-cymene etc. The fruit also consist of terpene derivatives. Hallucinogenic effect of the spice is caused by the presence of myristicin. Oil component of the mace is same as that of nutmeg but terpenoid is increased.
Nutmeg has been used to treat digestive disorders, such as nausea and diarrhea and kidney ailments. Southeast Asians also treat fevers, headaches and bronchial problems with nutmeg. The Chinese consider it to be an aphrodisiac. Nutmeg is also popularly used for manufacturing essential oil, used heavily in pharmaceutical and perfumery industry. It is used as a major ingredient in cough syprups and in toothpaste. Nutmeg contains potassium, magnesium and phosphorous.
Nutmeg provides an intense, sweet, spicy aroma to pasteries, cakes, sweet rolls, banana bread, pumpkin pies and apple pies, ice cream, chocolate and lemon desserts. Nutmeg is also used in cheese fondues and it enhances savory products such as vegetable stews, béchamel sauce, tomato sauce, processed meats and pork patties. It complements chocolate, fruits, custard, vanilla, coconut, milk, lemongrass and kari leaves. European use it in mashed potatoes, rice dishes, pastas, soups, rice puddings, pies, eggnog, biscuits and milk based drinks. Italians flavour spinach with nutmeg for stuffed pastas. It is also a favorite spice of the Dutch, who use it in potatoes and other vegetables. Nutmeg is an important ingredient in French spice blend, quatre epices, that is used to flavour meats that are braised or cooked for long time, such as ragouts or stews.