Allspice


Allspice
Allspice
Allspice
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Myrtales
Family: Myrtaceae
Genus: Pimenta
Species: P. dioica
Binomial name
Pimenta dioica
(L.) Merr.

Allspice, also called Jamaica pepper, pepper, myrtle pepper, pimenta,[1] or newspice, is a spice that is the dried unripe fruit ("berries") of Pimenta dioica , a mid-canopy tree native to the Greater Antilles, southern Mexico, and Central America, now cultivated in many warm parts of the world.[2] The name "allspice" was coined as early as 1621 by the English, who thought it combined the flavour of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.[3]

Several unrelated fragrant shrubs are called "Carolina allspice" (Calycanthus floridus), "Japanese allspice" (Chimonanthus praecox) or "wild allspice" (Lindera benzoin). Allspice is also sometimes used to refer to the herb costmary (Tanacetum balsamita).

Contents

Preparation/form

Whole allspice berries

Allspice is the dried fruit of the Pimenta dioica plant. The fruit is picked when it is green and unripe and, traditionally, dried in the sun. When dry, the fruits are brown and resemble large brown peppercorns. The whole fruits have a longer shelf life than the powdered product and produce a more aromatic product when freshly ground before use.

The leaves of the allspice plant are also used in island cooking. More specifically, it is very popular in Jamaican and Tuvaluvian cooking. For cooking, fresh leaves are used where available: they are similar in texture to bay leaves and are thus infused during cooking and then removed before serving. Unlike bay leaves, they lose much flavour when dried and stored, so do not figure in commerce. The leaves and wood are often used for smoking meats where allspice is a local crop. Allspice can also be found in essential oil form.

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 America, 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, such as Germany, it is used in large amounts by commercial sausage makers. Allspice is also a main flavor used in barbecue sauces.[citation needed] 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,[4] Allspice is also reported to provide relief for indigestion and gas.[5]

Cultivation

Pimenta dioica leaves in Goa, India

The allspice tree is classified as an evergreen shrub that reaches a height of between 32 and 60 feet. 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 that are planted underneath them. 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. The plant is dioecious, meaning plants are either male or female and hence male and female plants must be kept in proximity to allow fruits to develop[6].

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, it was realized that passage through the avian gut, either the acidity or the elevated temperature, was essential for germinating the seeds. Today, pimenta is spread by birds in Tonga and Hawaii, where it has become naturalized on Kauaʻi and Maui.[7]

Western history

Allspice (Pimenta dioica) was encountered by Christopher Columbus on the island of Jamaica during his second voyage to the New World, and named by Dr. Diego Álvarez Chanca. It was introduced into European and Mediterranean cuisines in the 16th century. It continued to be grown primarily in Jamaica, though a few other Central American countries produced allspice in comparatively small quantities.[6]

Notes and references

  1. ^ The name pimento, often substituted when pimenta is intended, is properly used for a certain kind of large, red, heart-shaped sweet pepper.
  2. ^ Riffle, Robert L. (1 August 1998). The Tropical Look: An Encyclopedia of Dramatic Landscape Plants. Timber Press. ISBN 0-88192-422-9. 
  3. ^ Oxford English Dictionary (2 ed.). Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press. 1 March 1989. ISBN 0-19-861186-2. http://dictionary.oed.com. Retrieved 12 December 2009. 
  4. ^ Yaniv, Zohara; Bacharach, Uriel, eds (1 April 2005). Handbook of Medicinal Plants. Brighamton, New York: Food Products Press and Haworth Medical Press. pp. 336. ISBN 1-56022-994-2. 
  5. ^ "The healing power of Spices". CBC News. 31 October 2006. http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/health/spices.html. Retrieved 12 December 2009.  (CBC) "The healing power of Spices"
  6. ^ a b Nancy Gaifyllia. "About.com Greek Food - Allspice". http://greekfood.about.com/od/herbsspices/p/allspice.htm. Retrieved 26 June 2011. 
  7. ^ Lorence, David H.; Flynn, Timothy W.; Wagner, Warren L. (1 March 1995). "Contributions to the Flora of Hawai'i III". Bishop Museum Occasional Papers (Honolulu, Hawaii: Bishop Museum Press) 41: 19–58. ISSN 0893-1348. http://hbs.bishopmuseum.org/pdf/op41-19-58.pdf. Retrieved 12 December 2009. 

External links


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Synonyms:

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Allspice — All spice , n. The berry of the pimento ({Eugenia pimenta}), a tree of the West Indies; a spice of a mildly pungent taste, and agreeably aromatic; Jamaica pepper; pimento. It has been supposed to combine the flavor of cinnamon, nutmegs, and… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Allspice — (spr. Ahlspeis), so v.w. Nelkenpfeffer …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Allspice — (engl., spr. aolspaiß), in Amerika soviel wie Piment, Nelkenpfeffer; s. Pimenta …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • allspice — (n.) spice made from the berry of the Jamaican pimento, 1620s, from ALL (Cf. all) + SPICE (Cf. spice) (n.), so called because supposed to combine the flavour of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. [Weekley] …   Etymology dictionary

  • allspice — ► NOUN ▪ the dried aromatic fruit of a Caribbean tree, used as a culinary spice …   English terms dictionary

  • allspice — [ôl′spīs΄] n. 1. a West Indian tree (Pimenta dioica) of the myrtle family 2. its berry 3. the spice made from this berry: so called because its flavor seems to combine the tastes of several spices …   English World dictionary

  • allspice — /awl spuys /, n. 1. the dried, unripe berries of an aromatic tropical American tree, Pimenta dioica, used whole or ground as a spice. 2. the tree itself. Also called pimento. [1615 25; ALL + SPICE] * * * Tropical evergreen tree (Pimenta dioica)… …   Universalium

  • allspice — noun Date: 1621 1. the berry of a West Indian tree (Pimenta dioica) of the myrtle family; also the allspice tree 2. a mildly pungent and aromatic spice prepared from dried allspice berries …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • allspice — all·spice ȯl .spīs n the berry of a West Indian tree of the genus Pimenta (P. dioica) of the myrtle family also the allspice tree …   Medical dictionary

  • allspice — [[t]ɔ͟ːlspaɪs[/t]] N UNCOUNT Allspice is a powder used as a spice in cooking, which is made from the berries of a tropical American tree. Syn: pimento …   English dictionary