Season for Allspice May – Oct

Allspice Described

Allspice – also called Jamaica pepper, kurundu, myrtle pepper, pimenta or newspice – was aptly coined “allspice” in the seventeenth century by the English who thought it encompassed an array of flavors including cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, pepper and clove. But it is indeed just one single spice. With a bouquet that is both sweetly pungent and warmly aromatic, allspice is one round, shriveled little berry that holds a multitude of dimensions. Traditionally dried in the sun, allspice resemble large peppercorns, and have actually created some confusion among the two – not surprising when you find the whole berry sold with labels that read “pimento,” the Spanish word for pepper. Look out.  

How to Buy and Store Allspice

For the best experience of this spice, buy whole allspice corns instead of pre-ground (powdered) varieties, for reasons relating to purity and flavor retention. The corns should be heavy, round and compact. They can be stored at room temperature for many years and can be ground with a mortal and pestle as needed (or a coffee grinder). Once ground, however, store your allspice in the refrigerator in airtight containers and uses as soon as possible; it will quickly diminish strength as its essential oils evaportate (also where many of its health benefits lie). 

How to Cook Allspice

To garner the most fragrance and flavor, grind your allspice just before you begin to cook your meal and add it at the final stages of your recipe. If you cook it too long, the essential oils will evaporate. Allspice is a vital – if not the most vital – ingredient in Caribbean cuisine. It is used in Caribbean jerk seasoning (usually the wood is used for smoking but the spice makes a viable substitute), in mole sauces, and in pickling. You’ll also find allspice in curry powders, sausages and barbecue sauces. And – shh – but allspice can be that special ingredient in your award-winning chili. 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.

Health Benefits of Allspice

Just as allspice contains a variety of flavors, so too does it benefit your health in varied ways. It’s generally associated as having anti-inflammatory, rubefacient (warming and soothing), carminative and anti-flatulent properties, most commonly reported to provide relief from indigestion and gas. Its volatile oils contain eugenol, an antimicrobial agent that makes this spice effective in deodorants. The tannins in allspice provide a mild anesthetic that, with its warming effect, make it a popular home remedy for arthritis and sore muscles, used either as a poultice or in hot baths.

Why Buy Natural and Organic Allspice

Most spices are grown overseas, and allspice is no exception – the finest specimens cultivated in Jamaica where the soil is well suited to this berry tree. Spices generally undergo a process to kill any and all potential bacteria – two ways being irradiation and fumigation with ethylene oxide, a pesticide. Though these are the cheapest and easiest ways, there are alternatives that aren’t harmful to either your health or the planet’s. Purchase your allspice and all spices organically to ensure all-around safety, and to proclaim that you support sustainable farming practices. 

image: Elenadan