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.
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.
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.
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.