Fruit - Berries
Whole or powdered
Whole allspice berries provide concentrated flavor in foods whether used whole or freshly ground, and has a longer shelf life than powdered allspice.
Allspice contains anywhere from 3-4% volatile oil, which is about 80% eugenol derived from the glands in the pericarp of the seeds. Some resin of an unknown amount may be present along with vitamins A, B1, B2, and C. It also has proteins, lipids, and minerals.
Allspice “berries” are harvested from the Jamaican bayberry, a mid-canopy tree found in Central America, southern Mexico, Puerto Rico, Jamaica and other Greater Antilles islands of the Caribbean. The fruits of the tree closely resemble peppercorns, which explains the various common names that refer to pepper. In fact, 15th century merchants engaged in spice exploration were convinced they had found black pepper in Jamaica and introduced the spice to the New World as Jamaican pepper.
Allspice shares a common chemical compound with nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, bay, basil, lemon balm and wormwood called eugenol that is responsible for the strong aroma and warming qualities of the spice. During the War of 1812, Russian soldiers placed whole allspice berries in their boots to help prevent unpleasant odors and cold feet.
Allspice is one of the most important ingredients of Caribbean cuisine. It is
used in Caribbean jerk seasoning (the wood is used to smoke jerk in
Jamaica, although the spice is a good substitute), in moles, and in pickling;
it is also an ingredient in commercial sausage preparations and curry powders
. Allspice is also indispensable in Middle Eastern cuisine, particularly in the
Levant, where it is used to flavor a variety of stews and meat dishes. In
Palestinian cuisine, for example, many main dishes call for allspice as the
sole spice added for flavoring. In the U.S., it is used mostly in desserts, but
it is also responsible for giving Cincinnati-style chili its distinctive aroma and flavor. Allspice is commonly used in Great Britain, and appears in many dishes, including cakes. Even in many countries where allspice is not very popular in the household, as in Germany, it is used in large amounts by commercial sausage makers. It is a main flavor used in barbecue sauces. In the West Indies, an allspice liqueur called "pimento dram" is produced.
Allspice has also been used as a deodorant. Volatile oils found in the plant contain eugenol, a weak antimicrobial agent.
Cultivation of Pimenta dioica leaves in Goa, India P. dioica mature trees in Guatemala
The allspice tree, classified as an evergreen shrub, reaches heights between 10 and 18 m (32 and 60 ft). Allspice can be a small, scrubby tree, quite similar to the bay laurel in size and form. It can also be a tall, canopy tree, sometimes grown to provide shade for coffee trees planted underneath it. It can be grown outdoors in the tropics and subtropics with normal garden soil and watering. Smaller plants can be killed by frost, although larger plants are more tolerant. It adapts well to container culture and can be kept as a houseplant or in a greenhouse.
To protect the pimenta trade, the plant was guarded against export from Jamaica. Many attempts at growing the pimenta from seeds were reported, but all failed. At one time, the plant was thought to grow nowhere except in Jamaica, where the plant was readily spread by birds. Experiments were then performed using the constituents of bird droppings; however, these were also totally unsuccessful. Eventually, passage through the avian gut, either the acidity or the elevated temperature, was found to be essential for germinating the seeds. Today, pimenta is spread by birds in Tonga and Hawaii, where it has become naturalized on Kauaʻi and Maui.