Organic Ground Allspice
Organic Allspice, Pimenta dioica (formerly Pimenta officinalis), comes from the family Myrtaceae (myrtle family) and is closely related to clove, eucalyptus, guava and the bay rum tree. Allspice is the only spice that is grown exclusively in the Western Hemisphere and is native to the Caribbean (Jamaica), Mexico, Central America (Belize, Guatemala, Honduras) and South America (Brazil, Leeward Isle).
Allspice is called bahar halu (Arabic), duo xiang guo (Mandarin), toute-epice, poivre de Jamaique (French), piment neugewurz, nelkenpfeffer (German), orusupaisu (Japanese), pimento de Jamaica (Portuguese) and pimiento de Jamaica (Spanish), It's also known as Jamaica pepper, clove pepper or myrtle pepper.
Jamaican Allspice has the highest volatile oil content, and because of that has long been considered to be best quality allspice in the world. Mexican Allspice berries are the largest and have the darkest color. Allspice that's grown in Central American countries (Guatemala and Honduras) and Mexico tends to have a greater variance in berry size and in volatile oil content. That's because berries grown in these countries tend to be harvested from wild growing trees, while Jamaican Allspice cultivation is more often grown on highly controlled plantations and strictly regulated by the Jamaican government (which improves consistency but also adds significant costs).
In Mexico and Guatemala, the Allspice tree and fruit are called "pimienta gorda" which means "fat pepper".
Allspice berries contain between 1.5% and 5% essential oil with Jamaican at 5%, Guatemalan 3% and Mexican at 1.4% to 3%. To most cooks the difference in flavor is negligible.
Guatemalan Allspice is typically harvested in June, July and August, Mexican Allspice in July and August, Jamaican Allspice is harvested in August and September.
Our Organic Allspice Berries are cultivated in Guatemala and fresh ground in our facility to maximize flavor.
Allspice was discovered on the island of Jamaica by Columbus during his second voyage to the New World in 1494. Columbus called Allspice "pimiento", which is what the Spanish called black peppercorns because the dried Allspice berries looked similar to large, smooth, brownish black peppercorns.
The genus name Pimenta (add italics) comes from Spanish "pimienta" for black pepper. Its name has quite a bit of confusion surrounding it. In Late Latin, the word "pigmentum" meant "dye", but over time it took on the additional meaning of "spice" or "condiment". The Portuguese and Spanish languages formed their word for "pepper" not from the Latin "piper" (which translates to "pepper"), but from the Late Latin "pigmentum" -- Portuguese "pimenta" and Spanish "pimienta". The import of Allspice into Europe during the 1500's was controlled by the Spanish, and because Columbus referred to Allspice as pimiento, this was often how the spice was introduced into other European languages -- in French as "pimenta" and Ukrainian as "piment".
Contemporary Spanish adds even more confusion to the naming convention, by using the masculine form, pimiento, for paprika and the feminine form, pimienta, for pepper.
The earliest known use of allspice was by the ancient Mayans (2600 BC - 1500AD) and Aztecs (1250 - 1521AD), who both used allspice berries to flavor their favorite cacao drinks.
After Columbus introduced Allspice to Europe, there were numerous attempts to grow the tree in the spice producing regions of the east, but these attempts proved futile. Even though allspice possessed a strong aroma and flavor similar to other spices that were highly coveted throughout Europe in the 1500s, allspice never became as popular as cinnamon and pepper.
Allspice was imported to Europe in 1601 as a substitute for cardamom, and food historians believe that in the early 17th century it was the British who gave this berry the name allspice because of the dried berry's aroma; which smells like a combination of spices, most notably cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg. In 1737, as other new world imports like sugar and coffee were dominating the rest of Europe, the British started regularly importing allspice which gained such a loyal following that it became known as English Spice.
The first mention of allspice in an American cookbook was in "American Cookery" published in 1796. This cookbook had a recipe for "pompkin pudding" (not a typo and today this is called pumpkin pie) that called for both allspice and ginger.
The allspice tree, a tropical evergreen, will reach a height of between 25-60 feet (taller when grown in the wild). Allspice trees are either male or female, although some male trees may produce a small number of berries. Female trees begin bearing fruit in their 5th or 6th year and reach full fruit bearing maturity at about 20 years. There have been some mentions of allspice trees producing berries for up to 100 years. Fully mature trees produce 10-20 pounds of berries each year.
The allspice tree has smooth whitish - grey bark that peels in thin sheets like birch trees. The leaves are large, about 8" long and 2" wide, oblong shaped with a leathery appearance, a glossy green color and they're quite aromatic. Small white flowers begin appearing in mid-summer and are about 1/4" across and borne in many flowered pyramidal cymes originating from the leaf axils. The small white flowers quickly develop into clusters of green pea-sized berries with 1 or 2 berries each.
Allspice berries lose their aroma once they've completely ripened, so they're picked as soon as they've reached their full size, but while they're still green. Similar to vanilla beans, the harvested berries are ‘sweated' for a few days and then spread out on a concrete platform called a ‘barbeque' where they finish the drying process. Once completely dried, they are a dark reddish brown in color.
Organic allspice from Guatemala is sourced from small farmer co-ops of mostly indigenous Q'eqchi' people (one of the Maya peoples in Guatemala and Belize). In Guatemala's Peten forest (located in the northernmost region of Guatemala), allspice is gathered each year during June, July and August by pollarding (a pruning system in which the upper branches of a tree are removed) berry-bearing trees of their branches and drying the harvested seeds. Although the practice sounds destructive, allspice trees soon sprout new branches and the tree can be harvested again after six years of re-growth.
Mexico is the world's largest exporter of allspice (32% of total production), followed by Jamaica (25%) and Guatemala (17%).
Allspice is more popular in the West; especially in American, British, Caribbean, German, North African and Scandinavian cuisines. They're not really used in Asian cooking.
The Taino, the original people of Jamaica, used Allspice for preserving meat and fish. The Spanish assimilated this practice and used this same meat preserving technique on voyages to and from Europe.
The British add allspice to stews, sauces and pickled vegetables. In the Caribbean, it's added to barbecues, curries, stews and sweet potatoes. Whole allspice berries are added to "pimento dram", a popular Jamaican drink, and allspice is a key ingredient in Jamaican Jerk seasoning. In Germany, allspice is used in biscuits, cakes, pies, pot roasts, relishes and stuffing. In North African cuisines, Allspice is added to "Mrouzia" a lamb tagine and is also a signature spice in the seasoning blends Berbere and Moroccan Vegetable Rub.
Use allspice to flavor vegetables like carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, turnips and winter squash, soups (especially chicken, tomato and vegetable), apple pie, fruit compote, pumpkin pie, chili sauces, plum pudding, rice pudding, cookies, gingerbread, spice cakes, sweet rolls, pickles, relishes, gravies, hamburgers, meatballs, lamb stew, beef roast, stew and meat marinades.
Allspice also works well in combination with chili powder, cloves, coriander, garlic, ginger, mustard, pepper, rosemary and thyme.
In the countries of origin (especially in Mexico), fresh Allspice tree leaves are often used for cooking or smoking meat. They have a different flavor, woodier aroma with less intense notes than the berry. Allspice leaves have a similar texture to bay leaves and are often infused during cooking and then removed before serving. Unlike bay leaves, they lose much flavor when dried, so there is not much of a commercial market for them.
Organic Allspice is warm and sweetly pungent with floral undertones.
Mexican Allspice has a mellower flavor and is not quite as sweet as Jamaican or Guatemalan grown Allspice.
Allspice can be used as a substitute, measure for measure, for cinnamon, cloves or nutmeg. Conversely, to make a substitution for allspice, combine one part nutmeg with two parts each of cinnamon and cloves.
Serving Size1 tsp
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value*