allspice

allspice

[awl-spahys]
allspice: see pimento.

Spicebush (Lindera benzoin).

Deciduous, dense shrub (Lindera benzoin, or Benzoin aestivale) of the laurel family, native to eastern North America. Found most often in damp woods, it grows 5–20 ft (1.5–6 m) tall. The shiny, oblong leaves (3–5 in., or 8–13 cm, long) are wedge-shaped near the base. Small, yellow flowers crowded in small, nearly stalkless clusters are followed by fleshy red fruit with a stony covering around the seed. Tea is sometimes brewed from young twigs, leaves, and fruit.

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Allspice (Pimenta dioica).

Tropical evergreen tree (Pimenta dioica) of the myrtle family, native to the West Indies and Central America and valued for its berries, the source of a highly aromatic spice. Allspice was so named because the flavour of the dried berry resembles a combination of cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. It is widely used in baking. The name is applied to several other aromatic shrubs as well, including Carolina allspice (Calycanthus floridus), Japanese allspice (Chimonanthus praecox), and wild allspice, or spicebush.

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Allspice, also called Jamaica pepper,"Kurundu" Myrtle pepper, pimento , or newspice, is a spice which is the dried unripe fruit of the Pimenta dioica plant, a tree native to the West Indies, southern Mexico and Central America. The name "allspice" was coined by the English, who thought it combined the flavour of several aromatic spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

Preparation/Form

Ground allspice is not, as some people believe, a mixture of spices. Rather, it 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 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. 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.

Uses

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 mole sauces, 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 as well. Allspice is commonly used in Great Britain and appears in many dishes, including in 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. 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 (Yaniv, Sohara et al. 2005). Allspice is also purported to provide relief for indigestion and gas.

Cultivation

Allspice is a small scrubby tree, quite similar to the bay laurel in size and form. 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 in order to allow fruits to develop.

To protect the pimento trade the plant was guarded against export from Jamaica. It is reported that many attempts were made at growing the pimento from seeds, all failed. At one time it was thought that the plant would grow nowhere else 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 an elevated temperature, such as that found inside a bird's body, was essential for germinating the seeds.

International naming

Бахар (Bahar) in Bulgarian
Пименто (Pimento) in Macedonian
Ziele angielskie in Polish
Nové koření in Czech

References

Notes

Works cited

  • Herbs, Spices and Flavourings, Tom Stobart, Penguin books, 1977
  • Yaniv, Zohara et al. Hand Book of Medicinal Plants. 10 Alice Street, Bringhamton, NY 13904-1580: Food Products Press(r), 2005.

External links

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