I recently was asked if nutmeg is safe for people with tree nut allergies. I quickly replied that nutmeg is safe because it’s a seed and not a nut. It’s a standard response, as you’ll see from this statement from FAAN: “Nutmeg is obtained from the seeds of the tropical tree species Myristica fragrans. It is generally safe for an individual with a tree nut allergy.”
Source: http://www.foodallergy.org/page/tree-nut-allergy accessed 4 March 2012
I needed to know, what is the difference between a seed and a nut? I found out that nuts are a composite of the seed and the fruit, where the fruit does not open to release the seed. I confirmed that the nutmeg fruit is a pendulous drupe, similar in appearance to an apricot. When fully mature, it splits in two, exposing a single brown seed, the nutmeg. This confirms that nutmeg is NOT a nut, it is indeed a seed.
How does this reconcile with the fact that many tree nuts are actually seeds? The seeds in this list are all considered tree nuts, and no one disputes that they’re allergenic:
- Almonds, pecans and walnuts are the edible seeds of drupe fruits.
- Brazil nut is the seed from a capsule.
- Cashew nut is a seed.
- Pine nut is the seed of several species of pine trees.
- Pistachio nut is the seed of a thin-shelled drupe.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nut_(fruit) accessed 4 March 2012
It seems that the classification of certain seeds as tree nuts is somewhat arbitrary. It appears that nutmeg seed is not considered a tree nut, and Allergists do not recommend avoiding it if you’re allergic to peanuts or tree nuts. If you notice that you develop allergy symptoms when you eat nutmeg, you may have an allergy to certain seeds and should advise your doctor.
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nutmeg accessed 4 March 2012