One of two molecules this week
November 25, 2014
Image of Sabinene and Zingiberene

Are you baking a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving? If so, you’ll undoubtedly use several spices, including nutmeg and ginger. Here are the molecules that give these spices their flavor.

Sabinene is a bicyclic monoterpene that occurs in many plants, including Norway spruce, black pepper, and Myristica fragrans, an evergreen indigenous to the Moluccas—the Spice Islands. The seeds of M. fragrans are the world’s main source of nutmeg. Sabinene exists as (+)- and (–)-enantiomers.

Zingiberene is a monocyclic sesquiterpene that is the main flavor component of ginger, which is obtained from the root of the Chinese plant Zingiber officinale. Cultivation of Z. officinale has spread to other parts of Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and—of course—the Spice Islands.

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