Herbs


Allspice


Botanical Name: Pimenta diocia

Family: Myrtaceae

Allspice became known in Europe long after it was first discovered by an expedition of Columbus. Since the shape of allspice resembled that of peppercorns, the new grains were termed 'pepper'.

Allspice is indigenous to the West Indies and South America. It is cultivated in Jamaica and Central America. In India it is well grown in Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, and the Wynad district of Kerala.

Since it has the characteristic flavour and aroma of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and black pepper, it is known as allspice. Its characteristic odour is due to the presence of an essential oil found in the pericarp, which has a burning and astringent taste.

The dried unripe berries come from a bushy green tree that is 6-9 metres high. The berries are nearly globular, 4-7 mm in diameter. They are reddish-brown in colour, and have a rather rough surface.

A typical analysis of allspice shows the following composition:

  • Protein: 6:0 %
  • Fat: 6.6.%
  • Fibre: 21.6 %
  • Carbohydrates: 52.8 %
  • Calcium: 0.8 %
  • Phosphorus: 0.1 %
  • Sodium: 0.08 %
  • Potassium: 1.1 %
  • Iron: 07.5 mg/l00g
  • Vito C: 39.2 mg 100g
  • Vito B: 0.1 mg 100g
  • Riboflavin: 0.06 mg
  • Niacin: 2.9 mg
  • Vito A: 1445 IV

The volatile oil extracted from the berries is made up of eugenol and other unknown chemicals.

Allspice is aromatic, stimulant and carminative. It acts on the gastro-intestinal tract, and is usually added to drinks, tonics and purgatives for flavouring. The spice may also be added for flatulent indigestion and hysteria.

The berry oil is used for flavouring food products, and in perfumery, soap, and pharmaceuticals. The leaves, containing tannin, can be used for tanning. The wood of the saplings is used for making umbrella handles and walking sticks.

Allspice is administered as an essential oil, distilled water, powdered fruit and fluid extract. In Caribbean cuisine, allspice, with its pleasing clove, like aroma, is the most typical spice that is used extensively.

Meat is often stuffed with allspice leaves, and barbecued over a fire of allspice wood. Jamaica is known for its fiery jerk pastes, which are commonly used to marinate pork or chicken before barbecuing. The British use allspice for stews and sauces, and for flavouring pickled vegetables. The pungent, aromatic quality of allspice is much in line with Arabic cooking style.

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