Allspice is a spice that is obtained from an evergreen Mirtaceae tree (Pimenta dioica (L.) Merr.) Originating in the areas of Jamaica.
Origins and History –
Pimento, also known by the name of Jamaica pepper or carnation pepper, is a spice obtained from the dried fruits of the Pimenta dioica.
Pimento, which is native to Central America and the Caribbean area, particularly Jamaica where extensive cultivation perfumes the air all around during the flowering period.
It seems that among the ingredients used for embalming by the Maya there was also allspice.
It was Christopher Columbus who brought the allspice to Spain from the Caribbean thinking it was pepper; actually allspice berries resemble large pepper berries. From this misunderstanding the name pimento is derived. Before the Second World War, allspice was fairly used, but during the war several trees were cut down and production collapsed; wild trees are nowadays quite rare. In Eastern Europe, however, it is still widely used, for example in Poland, where it is a spice used daily, the fruit is called “English herb” and therefore not linguistically confused with black pepper; the “English” attribute perhaps derives from the fact that it was popularized by the British.
This spice, as mentioned, has a very similar appearance to that of pepper, so much so that the term ‘pimento’ derives from the Spanish pimiento (pepper), which was assigned to the berry when it landed in Europe. Later the name was enriched ‘Jamaica’ to distinguish the new product from the old one.
Dried fruits, similar to round balls, are widely used in Caribbean cuisine, where they are appreciated for their particular taste (intense and aromatic, not very spicy), which looks like a mixture of different spices. The flavor recalls those of cinnamon, black pepper, clove and nutmeg combined. The composite aroma therefore justifies the appellation of ‘all the spices’ that this berry receives in English (allspice) and French (toute-épice).
Allspice is used in the Caribbean to pick the meat to be grilled; in Mexico the berries enter the moles, the famous sauces of this nation.
In addition to being present in many sauces of Mexican cuisine, they are used for storing food in a sort of brine called pickling; it is also one of the ingredients that can be found in the curry. It is also used in many Middle Eastern countries; for example, Palestinian cuisine uses allspice to flavor many of its dishes.
In the United States it is mainly used in desserts, but it is one of the main ingredients of the Cincinnati chili, also the pumpkin pie, typical of Thanksgiving, is flavored with pimento.
In Europe, the use of this spice is not highly appreciated. English and Scandinavian exceptions. In Britain it is used for many recipes, for example in pancakes. Also used in Creole: mixture of white pepper, black pepper, green pepper, pink pepper and allspice. It is also used for sauces and pickles (together with mustard seeds), as well as for flavoring traditional Christmas sweets; Scandinavians use it to flavor smorrenbrod (garnished black bread canapés, which represent traditional Danish appetizers) and to flavor savory pies with marinated meat and herring.
To find an interesting use you have to go south to Ethiopia, where allspice is used in the rich blend known as berberé.
Everywhere, given the particular taste, the pimento lends itself to flavoring cakes and biscuits.
Some liqueurs, such as Chartreuse, also use the scent of allspice, which is also appreciated in cosmetic and pharmaceutical preparations.
South American folk medicine used allspice to treat stomach ailments, and the Aztecs also used it to flavor chocolate.
Allspice water (Aqua Pimentae) from the British Pharmacopoeia was used to impart a pleasant taste to purgatives.
In the 18th century allspice was used as a deodorant; for example, Russian soldiers used to put some allspice berries in their boots. It contains eugenol, an antimicrobial agent. According to popular tradition it seems that it helps digestion.
The allspice plant is an evergreen, long-lived arboreal species, which can live for 100 years and more. From the dried fruits of this plant, allspice is obtained, a spice with some beneficial properties.
The plant blooms from spring to summer with small white flowers that later turn into berries. The latter, for the preparation of allspice, are collected when they are still green and dried.
Once dried, the brown seeds, similar to peppercorns, are extracted from the pimento berries, which will then be sold as a spice in the form of wheat or in powder form.
The smell, pungent and aromatic at the same time, reminds that of pepper.
As its aroma is reminiscent of other spices such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. For this reason in the English language it is called allspices.
Active principles –
Allspice is a spice rich in salts and vitamins.
It contains 8.4% water, 21% dietary fiber, 4.6% ash, 6.1% protein and 8.7% fat.
The minerals contained are: calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, phosphorus, copper, manganese, zinc, iron and selenium.
Vitamins: vitamin A, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 and vitamin C. Contains beta-carotene.
In 100 grams of allspice we also find 61 mg of phytosterols and contain 263 kcal.
The essential oil is extracted by steam distillation from the leaves and berries. The 2 oils differ from each other in color and aroma. The main constituents are caryophyllene, cineol, eugenol and fellandrene.
Allspice is particularly rich in eugenol, an oil with digestive, carminative, analgesic and antiseptic properties, for this reason it is an excellent remedy for abdominal colic and swelling but also to soothe the pain of toothache.
Properties and Uses –
Allspice is a spice that, as mentioned, is mainly produced in Jamaica, but other places of production are Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico.
In Mexico, the large allspice grows which, as the name implies, has larger grains than the Jamaican ones but less valuable.
Pimenta dioica is also the main ingredient of the pimiento bitter produced by the famous bartender Dale DeGroff.
For years, in fact, allspice has been the ingredient of many highly sought after cocktails and soft drinks. It lends itself well to rum-based preparations – both white and spiced rum – and is well accompanied by lime and angostura. In non-alcoholic drinks, Jamaican pepper is added in fruit-based preparations and extracts thanks to its typical aroma that combines that of cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon.
The berries of this spice have carminative, digestive, antidepressant and antiseptic properties. They are used to combat difficult digestions and to counteract nervous breakdowns.
For external use, the berry decoction is used as a local antiseptic, against rheumatic pain and respiratory tract infections.
Allspice has digestive properties and helps to relieve swelling caused by the formation of gas in the intestine and stomach. This is thanks to the good content of eugenol, an active ingredient present in the essential oil.
Eugenol also has other properties. It is antiseptic, anesthetic, disinfectant and anti inflammatory. In some cases it is also used to treat toothache.
It is a vasodilator, increases blood flow and has warming properties. For this reason, its essential oil is often used for heating baths.
An infusion prepared with its grains brings benefits in case of respiratory tract infections.
Its essential oil, as mentioned, if applied locally has anesthetic properties. It does not affect the nervous system and can be used to soothe the pain of insect bites, headaches, bruises, etc. ..
It stimulates the growth and formation of new cells in the body. It also stimulates digestion and circulation with general benefits on the most important vital organs.
It has a good content of antioxidant compounds whose activity is able to counteract free radicals. Several health benefits. From the prevention of premature aging and certain types of cancer to the prevention of certain degenerative diseases.
In its places of origin, it has always been used as a remedy for fever, colds, diabetes and menstrual cramps.
If used in high concentrations it can cause irritation of the mosses and skin. It should therefore be used in small doses according to the prescriptions. Not recommended for use by pregnant women.
Thanks to its slightly anesthetic and anti-inflammatory properties, allspice is also used to treat insect bites.
The allspice, for its pungent and aromatic smell, is used in aromatherapy while in cosmetics it is used for the preparation of perfumes.
When using in the kitchen it is recommended to buy whole grains as they retain their aromatic properties for longer.
In Italy as in Europe it is scarcely used. The British instead use it only for the preparation of some sauce. In Scandinavian countries they use it to give more flavor to some dishes such as savory pies.
Instead, as mentioned, it is widely used in its areas of origin, in the Caribbean countries, for example, it is used to cook meat on the grill.
Warning: The information shown is not medical advice and may not be accurate. The contents are for illustrative purposes only and do not replace medical advice.