Allspice is the dried unripened fruit of the Pimenta dioica plant.
The taste of allspice is similar to a mixture of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper – hence the name allspice.
Allspice originally comes from the Caribbean. The Jamaican strain of the spice is regarded as the best (one of the alternative names for allspice is Jamaican pepper) and most of the world’s supply comes from Jamaica with the other main suppliers being Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras.
The fruit from the allspice plant is picked when it is green, before it has ripened, and then dried in the sun. The fruit changes colour to a ruddy brown and shrinks from being about the size of a pea to the size of a large peppercorn. Allspice is available as powder or as dried fruit (which can be powdered before being used).
It’s no surprise to learn that allspice is a key ingredient in a lot of Caribbean dishes, including jerk seasoning. Jerk seasoning involves rubbing a mixture of allspice and Scotch Bonnet peppers over the meat (chicken, pork, fish, beef and sausage) before cooking. Scotch Bonnet peppers are one of the hottest peppers on the Scoville scale of chilli heat.
Allspice is commonly used in flavouring sausages as well as meat and savoury dishes such as curries.
Allspice is also used to treat digestive problems and is used externally to treat arthritis and muscle pains.
Even this is not the full range of uses for allspice because it is also used in producing cosmetics, particularly men’s cosmetics.