The nutmeg tree is used to produce nutmeg, just as the name suggests, but did you also know that mace is produced from the same seed as nutmeg? Something I never knew before researching this spice. Nutmeg is the seed of the nutmeg tree, it’s kind of shaped like an egg and mace is the dried “lacy” reddish covering or aril of the seed.
So nutmeg and mace are spices, right? But since they come from the seed of a tree, does that put them right back into the nut camp?
After hearing that someone’s wife, with a severe nut allergy, avoids nutmeg, as well as every food with the word nut in it’s title, I felt I should investigate further to discover what this nutty little spice really was. For the record, I’m not allergic to either, as far as I’m aware! I have both spices in the cupboard and use them in baking when the recipe requires it, having been told it was fine, and indeed finding it so.
So, Should people with nut allergy avoid nutmeg and mace?
The Anaphylaxis Campaign provide the following advice on their website: “Because of its name, many people with nut allergy believe that nutmeg must be avoided at all costs. It is possible that they are being over-cautious because there is no hard evidence to suggest that people with nut allergy are particularly at risk from nutmeg, and the incidence of nutmeg allergy is thought to be rare. However, not enough research has been carried out to be certain about how much of a problem it is. Nutmeg is the kernel of an apricot-like fruit and there is just the possibility that there might be cross-reactivity with almond, which is also a fruit kernel. If you are allergic to nuts and have never had a reaction to nutmeg it is likely that nutmeg poses no greater risk than many other foods. However, it would be sensible to be cautious, particularly if you are allergic to almonds or other fruit kernels such as apricot.”
Watch out for a wooden nutmeg!
Did you know that Connecticut in the USA was given the nickname of ‘the nutmeg state’ or ‘nutmegger’ after many of its inhabitants carved pieces of wood to resemble a real nutmeg and sold them fraudulently! Nutmeg must have been highly prized and expensive for such lengths to be gone. I guess you’d be quite annoyed when you tried to bite into or grind up your nutmeg only to discover all you had was a broken tooth or sawdust! The term ‘wooden nutmeg’ can be used to mean fraud for this reason.
It was also used as a drug due the fact that large doses can cause delirium and phsychoactive effects.
Pregnant women should beware because nutmeg was also thought to induce an abortion; it’s perfectly safe in culinary uses but large quanitites should be avoided. Just thought I’d mention that in case any of you were going to go and smoke a jar of nutmeg any time soon! Ref: Wikipedia
Nutmeg, a high histamine food
I learnt from the Allergy UK website that nutmeg is classified as a high histamine food, meaning it causes the body to produce histamine; for someone with a histamine intolerance this could cause problems. Read more about foods that are high and low in histamine on the Allergy UK website.
Can you be allergic nutmeg?
It’s very rare to be allergic to nutmeg but there are people who are. Due to it being a spice it can be very tricky to avoid. It’s not one of the top eleven allergens so it doesn’t need to listed as an ingredient and could come under the rather useful umbrella of ‘spices’. Nutmeg and mace could be used in baked goods, pastry, crisp flavourings, cakes, biscuits, curry sauces; you name it, it could have spices in it.
I found one first hand account from a mother who discovered her child had a nutmeg allergy but on the whole it appears to be pretty rare.
This has made me think about nutmeg. It isn’t a spice one would consume regularly, but since I’ve had more anaphylactic reactions than I’d care to remember where the culprit has not been identifed perhaps I should be looking farther afield to find the trigger. With peanut and tree nut allergies under my belt I could well be harbouring a nutmeg in there somewhere. Another one for the challenge test!
Anyone have an allergy to nutmeg or mace? Or have a peanut or tree nut allergy but are able to eat nutmeg? Don’t let this little spice get past you with a sneaky nutmeg!