Allspice

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Black pepper, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, cloves. Wilmsen, 1821.

Allspice or Jamaica Pepper or Pimento or Bay Rum Berry is an individual spice rather than a mix of all spices. Allspice comes from the dried berries from the tropical myrtle tree, Pimenta dioica L [1].

Allspice has a mix of flavours: spicy sweetness, clove with hints of pepper. Some reckon there are cinnamon and nutmeg notes, but they are faint - perhaps a little more when ground.

Whole allspice berries are the dried and cured, unripe berry of this tropical evergreen tree, which is part of the myrtle family. Allspice trees grow to 7 - 10 metres tall (20 - 30 ft) with a slender, straight and upright trunk, covered with a smooth, grey and aromatic bark. Allspice is very common in Jamaica, hence its alternate name Jamaica pepper, but also comes from Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico. Soon after, the tree blossoms with delightful white flowers in July and August, then succulent berries form. These berries are picked fully grown, but unripe, with a greenish-purple colour.

Allspice berries are dried in the sun on yards called "barbecues" until they take on a dark brown colour; the berries are light and brittle about the size of peas, with each corn consisting of two kidney-shaped flattish seeds that you can sometimes hear rattling inside the dry berry. The flavour of allspice arises from a process of "sweating" the unripe, but dried berries, by covering the sun-warmed berries with a tarpaulin to keep the heat in; this process encourages subtle enzymatic changes that unlock the clove, cinnamon, nutmeg and peppery flavours characteristic of allspice. It is reminiscent of the encouragement of flavour changes within vanilla which also includes such a "sweating" process.

Allspice is typically used in baking, used ground in cakes, biscuits and apple pies. It complements sweet vegetables especially carrots.

For savoury dishes, the classic use of allspice is in Jamaican jerk seasoning, but Jamaicans also use allspice to flavour sweet potatoes, soups, stews and curries. Allspice also goes well in stuffings for poultry and lamb, rubbed into hams and is used whole or crushed in pickles such as herrings (e.g. rollmops) and sauerkraut, chutneys and pâtés and terrines.

Nutritional Data

g/100g
Energy Value 347 kCal / 1475 kJ
Fat 1.5
- saturates n/a
- mono-unsaturates n/a
- polyunsaturates n/a
Carbohydrate 78.5
- sugar 3.3
- polyols n/a
- starch 75.2
Salt 0.4
Fibre 55.2
Protein 5.0

These can be compared to reference intakes, but these have not been shown in the table above, because they are not particularly useful for spices.

References

  1. Katzer, G. (n.d.) Allspice (Pimenta dioica), Gernot Katzer’s Spice Pages. Retrieved 28 October 2015.

Further Reading

  • Hemphill, I., Hemphill, K. (2014) The Spice and Herb Bible, Robert Rose. ISBN 9780778804932.
  • McFadden, C. (2007) Pepper: the spice that changed the world, Absolute Press. ISBN 9781904573609.
  • Norman, J. (2015) Herbs & Spices: The Cook's Reference, DK Publishing. ISBN 9781465435989.