Allspice (Pimenta dioica)
Allspice trees belong to the myrtle family and is native to the West Indies, Central and South America. The unripe fruit called allspice berries turn from green to purple to brown once dried in the sun and are ground to create allspice powder.
When crushed or ground, allspice has a pungent flavour which tastes like a mix of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. Whole allspice berries have a longer shelf life, so for optimum flavour its best to grind berries just before use.
Allspice has a fragrant aroma which smells like a combination of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg with a hint of mace and peppercorns.
Allspice is a common ingredient in Jamaican and South American cuisines and is a common addition to Jamaican jerk seasoning, pickles, chutney, tea, fruit cakes, puddings, cookies and pies. It can also be used in soups, stews and curries. Allspice marries with apples, beetroot, cabbage, caramel, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, ginger, nuts, nutmeg, onions, pears, poultry, pork, pumpkin and seafood.
Allspice trees grow best in warmer climates. The trees start bearing fruit after five or six years and are fully productive by their fifteenth year. Harvest berries during summer when they are green; allow them to try in the sun until they turn brown.
Mayan Indians used allspice to embalm their dead and its preservative properties were valued by 17th century sailors for storing both fish and meat. Christopher Columbus encountered allspice in Jamaica during his second voyage to the New World.
The oil from berries and allspice leaves are used in toothpaste, antiseptics, deodorants, perfumes and medicines for flatulence, as it settles the stomach and gastro-intestinal tract.
Facts about Allspice
In the 19th century, wood from allspice saplings was made to make walking sticks and umbrellas.
Jamaica produces almost two thirds of the world supply of allspice.
How do I stop my ground allspice losing its flavour?
Allspice loses is flavour after being ground. For optimal flavour, buy allspice berries and grind them with a pestle and mortar.