Thursday, August 2, 2012

Peach and blueberry birthday pie...... Nutmeg abuse and nutmeg psychosis

Prebaked pie looked much nicer than the baked one!
Yup. There's no mistake in my post title. There is such a thing as abusing and overdosing on nutmeg!

We don't usually ingest high quantities of this spice, and rarely in it's raw, natural form and without other foods to dilute it. But this is apparently what one 25 year old consistently did, according to a clinical case detailed in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (1, thanks Elisa from the lab for sharing this paper :).

This young man would only take 120 - 650 mg of nutmeg at a time and would exhibit agitated behavior along with hallucinations, extreme thirst, vomiting, and "a sense of impending death". His thirst would be so severe that he would drink up to 5 L of water per hour. While hospitalized, he continued to ingest nutmeg which was bought for him by another patient. Not all symptoms are attributed to the nutmeg abuse however: he has a history of mental illness which could have enhanced some of the symptoms produced from the nutmeg (1).

This was kind of unsettling so I went searching for a more recent study published in 2011: The authors looked back at the records of cases filed in the California Poison Control System database from 1997 to 2008 and found 119 cases of nutmeg (alone) abuse, of which roughly 70% were intentional abusers and the rest unintentional (2). Their findings show that intentional abusers were 80% more likely to be in the 13 - 20 year old range, and those who were intentional abusers were also more likely to experience agitation and tachychardia (faster than normal heart beat) (2).

So my question is, what constitutes intentional abuse of nutmeg? I love nutmeg, I use it often in baking and cooking, I love the smell, I use it intentionally, I'm a nutmeg abuser!!!!!! 

Recipe adapted from See You in the Morn and inspired by Laurie's galette (both made super professional looking pies!).

Pie dough:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup ground oats
1/4 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup butter, cold
1/2 tsp salt
Iced water (optional)

3 1/2 - 4 cups diced stone fruits (I used 1 fuzzy peach, 1 white nectarine, 1 small apple, 1/2 pint blueberries)
2/3 cups packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
1/2 tsp grated ginger
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch

4 tbsp butter
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup ground oats
3 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt

In a food processor, pulse all the pie dough ingredients (except for iced water) together until a dough forms. For those without a processor, combine flour, almonds, oats, butter and salt into a large bowl. Cut cold butter into the flour mixture until they look like butter crumbs coated in flour. Use hands to knead into dough. I added a little iced water to help incorporate the flour mixture but this is unnecessary if your dough is well formed. Place dough in fridge to chill and rest and wait for us.

Preheat the oven to 400F and set the rack in the middle of the oven. Meanwhile, prepare the filling: combine fruits with sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, lemon zest and juice, and cornstarch. Set aside.

Melt butter over a double boiler and take off heat. Add flour, oats, sugar, cinnamon, and salt and mix until all crumbly.

Roll out the dough about 1/2 cm width and lay out on to a pie pan (I used a cast iron pan) 9" diameter. Bake the dough alone for about 5 - 7 mins until it hardens slightly, spoon pie filling on to this dough and top with crumble. 

Return to oven and bake for 15 mins at 400F. Reduce the heat to 375F and continue baking for 45 mins to 1 hr. The crumble topping should be a nice toasty golden colour with a crunchy texture.

Baked pie, the filling was leaking all over the place and sealed the spring form pan shut!

Peach and nectarine pie, made at the same time as the peach and blueberry but in cast iron pan - just double the recipe!

Happy eating!

1. Brenner N. et al. Chronic Nutmeg Psychosis. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. Vol 86. p179 - 180.
2.Carstairs SD and Cantrell FL. The spice of life: An analysis of nutmeg exposures in California. Clinical Toxicology. Vol 49. No. 3, p177 - 180.


  1. Look gorgeous! I hate when things look better before they're cooked!

  2. I made a peach & blueberry pie earlier this summer and it was absolutely amazing! On another note, I don't really like nutmeg...

  3. i think u can precook the filling to reduce its size so it does not deflate that much... think thats how they make apple pie... ps needs honey

  4. First of all, this looks so so so lovely. Deeeeeelicious. And second, what the what? That guy was bananas.