Overview

Brief Summary

Allspice (Pimenta dioica) is a small tropical tree whose dried unripe berries (in which eugenol is the main volatile oil) provide the spice called allspice (named so because it seems to combine the flavors of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg). Allspice is believed to be native to the West Indies, southern Mexico, and Central America. Although Jamaica was the world's largest allspice exporter into the 1990s, in recent years this position has been held by Mexico. Guatemala and Honduras are also major exporters of allspice. (Vaughan and Geissler 1997)

  • Vaughan, J.G. and C.A. Geissler. 1997. The New Oxford Book of Food Plants (revised and updated edition). Oxford University Press, New York.
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Comprehensive Description

Miscellaneous Details

"Notes: Plains to High Altitude, Cultivated, Native Tropical America"
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Distribution

National Distribution

United States

Origin: Exotic

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

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Global Range: Southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Cuba, and Jamaica.

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"Kerala: Idukki, Kannur, Thrissur, Wynad Tamil Nadu: All districts"
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Physical Description

Diagnostic Description

Diagnostic

Habit: Tree
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Ecology

Habitat

Comments: Forests usually below 700 m alt (Landrum 1986). ***** Common in climax forest (Mills 1957).

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Life History and Behavior

Life Cycle

Persistence: PERENNIAL, Long-lived

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Pimenta dioica

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 6
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: Found in Jamaica, Cuba, southern Mexico, and parts of Central America. Also occurring in the forest covering the southern half of the Yucatán peninsula. Common in climax forest of Guatemala (Mills 1957).

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Uses

Uses: FOOD, Spice/herb/condiment, Beverage (alcoholic), Pharmaceutical, Folk medicine, INDUSTRIAL/CHEMICAL USE/PRODUCT

Production Methods: Cultivated, Wild-harvested

Comments: The dried fruit known as allspice is often used as a condiment (Guenther 1949). ***** The berries of this species are the source of allspice, which makes this the most economically important species in the genus. The leaves of this and Pimenta racemosa contain a volatile oil which is used in pharmacy, dentistry, food conservation and in the Caribbean islands for production of bay rum. The aetheric oil consists of 60-80 % eugenol, besides cineol, phellandren and caryphyllen. In commerce Germany is the main buyer but current exports do not exceed 3000 tons. Fifty years ago Jamaica alone exported 6000 tons annually (???).This plant is part of the extractive economy of the Maya Biosphere Reserve.

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Wikipedia

Allspice

Allspice, also called Jamaica pepper, pepper, myrtle pepper, pimenta, pimento,[1] English pepper[2] or newspice, is the dried unripe fruit ("berries", used as a spice) of Pimenta dioica, a midcanopy tree native to the Greater Antilles, southern Mexico, and Central America, now cultivated in many warm parts of the world.[3] The name 'allspice' was coined as early as 1621 by the English, who thought it combined the flavour of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.[4]

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).

Preparation/form[edit]

Whole allspice berries

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

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.

Uses[edit]

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 flavour a variety of stews and meat dishes. In Palestinian cuisine, for example, many main dishes call for allspice as the sole spice added for flavouring. In the U.S., it is used mostly in desserts, but it is also responsible for giving Cincinnati-style chili its distinctive aroma and flavour. 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, as in Germany, it is used in large amounts by commercial sausage makers. It is a main flavour 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.[5]

Cultivation[edit]

Pimenta dioica leaves in Goa, India
P. dioica mature trees in Guatemala

The allspice tree, classified as an evergreen shrub, reaches heights between 10 and 18 m (32 and 60 ft). 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 planted underneath it. 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.

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, passage through the avian gut, either the acidity or the elevated temperature, was found to be essential for germinating the seeds. Today, pimenta is spread by birds in Tonga and Hawaii, where it has become naturalized on Kauaʻi and Maui.[6]

Western history[edit]

Allspice (P. 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.[7]

References[edit]

  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. ^ In Hebrew, the spice is called פלפל אנגלי, literally: English pepper.
  3. ^ Riffle, Robert L. (1 August 1998). The Tropical Look: An Encyclopedia of Dramatic Landscape Plants. Timber Press. ISBN 0-88192-422-9. 
  4. ^ Oxford English Dictionary (2 ed.). Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press. 1 March 1989. ISBN 0-19-861186-2. Retrieved 12 December 2009. 
  5. ^ Yaniv, Zohara; Bacharach, Uriel, eds. (1 April 2005). Handbook of Medicinal Plants. Brighamton, New York: Food Products Press and Haworth Medical Press. p. 336. ISBN 1-56022-994-2. 
  6. ^ 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. Retrieved 12 December 2009. 
  7. ^ Nancy Gaifyllia. "About.com Greek Food – Allspice". Archived from the original on 7 July 2011. Retrieved 26 June 2011. 
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Recorded as Pimenta officinalis Lindley in Guenther, 1949 (B49GUE0100LA).

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