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Nutmeg: The spice of pie

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As the autumn evenings deepen and long winter nights are nigh, we long for the types of food that bring warmth to the body and fulfillment to the soul. Of course, we wait until the right time of year to heat the home with fires that must burn for long hours to cook the satisfying soups, stews, homemade breads and pies we all love.

Many of the spices we use to add character to our recipes also bring health to the human body. Nutmeg is a favorite spice of December because it is often used to flavor butternut squash, pumpkin and apple and custard pies. It is may be most known for flavoring eggnog.

The nutmeg grows on trees in Southeast Asia. The brown nut, or seed, is dried in the sun and powdered or pressed for essential oils. The outer covering of the nutmeg is a fibrous membrane that is separated and dried. This is the spice called mace, which has a more delicate flavor.

China has used the nutmeg for centuries to alleviate the pain of arthritis and other chronic conditions caused by inflammation. Nutmeg is good for circulation, bringing clarity to the mind and improving memory. The spice can be found in some cough syrups because it helps clear congestion in the sinuses and chest.

The oil of the nutmeg is found in perfumes and rubs that relieve muscle aches. Some toothache medicines contain nutmeg essential oil.

Too much nutmeg oil can be toxic. Pregnant women should avoid all products containing nutmeg oil as it can cause a miscarriage.

Set the mood with nutmeg-scented candles and custard pie in the oven. Then, light the fire and sip some eggnog while the stew comes to a fragrant boil.

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