Allspice (Pimenta dioica, Pimenta officinalis) is also known as Jamaica pepper and myrtle pepper (as it comes from the myrtle and clove family). It's a commonly used kitchen spice. Contrary to its name, it is not a mixture of different spices but is a single spice in its own right. The name was given to reflect the fact that it has overtones of nutmeg, cinnamon, black pepper and cloves all in the one spice. It has an intense aroma and a delicate, bittersweet flavour.
Description[edit | edit source]
The allspice tree is an evergreen. It has large, glossy leaves around 12.5cm/12 inches in length. The fruit first appears after three years. After flowering, small berries appear; they begin green and ripen to a brown colour, which is the allspice. They have an appearance similar to that of a large peppercorn and are of a dark-grey brown colour, with a rough skin.
Origins[edit | edit source]
Allspice is a native to the West Indies/Caribbean and Central America. It was grown mainly in Jamaica, hence its other common name, "Jamaica pepper". It is now grown commercially in other places, including Mexico and Indonesia.
Allspice tends to prefer limestone soils. It is usually grown in hilly areas.
Allspice is picked when it is unripe and green. The berries are usually dried in the sunshine until they turn to a dark brown colour. Once dried, they are ready for packaging and sale.
Use of allspice[edit | edit source]
The principal use of allspice is for cooking. In the past, it had a few medicinal uses as well, such as assisting digestion and preventing flatulence.
In cooking, allspice is used in pickling (whole), marinades (whole/crushed), meat rubs (crushed/dried) and is often added to sweet food (powdered/ground form) such as desserts, puddings, pumpkin pie, gingerbread, cakes and biscuits (cookies). It is also commonly used in sauces and ketchup. It is used whole and ground, and is usually used whole for pickling and ground in baking.
Typical cuisine that makes use of allspice include Scandinavian, Jamaican, Middle Eastern and Indian recipes.