Record Detail

EBC 45350


Specimen Notes:
  • "Information on label: Wild nutmegs in the shell value 6d per lb in London, out of shell value 2/- per lb in London 1847

    In the 19th century spices such as nutmeg were important in commerce, and popular throughout Europe. The spice we know today as nutmeg is Myristica fragrans - this originates from the Molucca Islands in Indonesia and is now grown all over the tropics. The nutmeg tree is the source of two different spices; the nutmeg is the seed kernel within the fruit, and the lacy red covering of the kernel is used to produce mace. The kernel contains the compound myristicin, which gives the spice its characteristic flavour and fragrance. Myristicin is a poisonous narcotic and can cause hallucinations, vomiting, epileptic symptoms and even death in large dosages, but is harmless in the quantities used in cooking. Nutmeg remains an immensely popular spice and an important ingredient in many recipes today.

    The 'wild nutmegs' in the Economic Botany collection are from a related species, Myristica argentea, which only grows in southwest New Guinea (Irian Jaya, Indonesia). By 1847 British ships had been in the waters surrounding New Guinea for some time and may have brought the spice to London. Alternatively the nutmegs may have arrived through trade with another European power. The kernels of the Papua nutmeg contain aromatic oils similar to those found in the true nutmeg."
  • Record posted on March 25, 2009 and last updated March 25, 2009