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Allspice

 

Synonyms: newspice, Jamaica pepper, pimenta

botanical name: Pimenta dioica


Piment

 

Allspice originated in South America, where it was used hundreds of years ago as a seasoning for chocolate. Columbus brought the spice to Europe from his second voyage, because he mistook it for a type of pepper. This led to the name pimenta, which comes from pimiento, meaning pepper in Spanish.

 

Today, allspice is native chiefly to the West Indies, mainly Jamaica. The allspice tree is also grown in Guatemala, Mexico, Brazil and India, however. The major part of the global demand is supplied from Jamaica, where the best-quality allspice is said to grow.

 

Availability

The allspice tree does not produce harvestable seeds until about the 6th year. The trees can grow for more than 100 years and the older they are, the more fruitful the harvest. Just prior to maturity, about 2-3 months following inflorescence, the seeds are harvested, because ripe allspice has less aromatic strength.

 

Allspice is sold here in Germany as dried whole seeds or already ground.

 

Appearance, taste, characteristics

Botanically, the allspice tree is a member of the myrtle family. It can grow up to 13 m high and has dark-green, oval, tapered leaves. The fruits it bears are green when unripe and red when ripe. After being harvested, the 4- to 8-mm seeds are dried and take on a reddish brown-yellow hue. They have a rough surface.

 

Allspice is very versatile in taste and scent and resembles a mixture of pepper, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon. This probably gave it its name.

 

It is occasionally adulterated with the seeds of the bay rum tree (Pimenta racemosa) that grows in the West Indies, Venezuela and Guatemala.

 

Mexican allspice is about 8-10 mm. The flavour is less aromatic, but somewhat spicier. It is used in the same way as allspice.

 

Ingredients

Allspice contains 3-5% essential oils, among them eugenol (65-80%) cineole, caryophyllene and α-phellandrene, which are responsible for the scent and flavour resembling cloves, cinnamon and pepper.

 

Quality criteria, optimal storage conditions

The seeds are best stored whole. In ground form they quickly lose their aroma.

 

Presumed effect on health

Cooked, crushed allspice seeds are supposed to alleviate rheumatic pain and neuralgia when they are wrapped in a cloth and applied to the painful area.

 

Allspice oil is said to help flatulence and colic. In general, allspice is held to be a tonic for the stomach and to stimulate the appetite and salivation.

 

Form of consumption, use, processing, practical tips for preparation

The seed is used as a component of many spice mixtures, such as curry. In general, allspice harmonizes with many oriental spices.

 

During the Christmas season it serves as an ingredient in spiced biscuits and gingerbread. However, plum cake and compote are also wonderfully enhanced by allspice.

 

Allspice is ideal with various meat and fish dishes, with diverse soups and sauces and is a suitable component of marinades and pickling brines. It is a bread spice and good for seasoning pickled cucumbers and chow chow. You should use it sparingly, however, as its strong aroma can overpower that of other ingredients.

 

Oil extracted from the seeds is used not only in making perfume, but also to produce many cordials and bitters.

 

Seasoning tip

The aroma of the allspice seeds can unfold well when they are freshly crushed in a mortar. A freshly crushed allspice seed has the strength of ten whole seeds.

 

 

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