Pimenta dioica: Allspice

Family: Myrtaceae
Common name: Allspice, Myrtle pepper, Jamaica pepper, Pimenta, Pimento, Sarva sugandhi

If you need a gentle heat and warmth for your dishes, but not the intense spice of chilies or masala, Allspice leaves are what you should go for. The leaves and fruits of this tree has the combined fragrance and taste of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, peppercorns and bay leaves.

Allspice trees can grow to a height of 12-18 meters with a thick trunk that peels off in flakes. The trunk is pale brown or gray in color and well-branched. Leaves are thick, leathery, bright green, and very aromatic. Young leaves have a pink tint, later turning light green and then dark, glossy green.

They can be used like bay leaves, fresh or dried, mostly in meat dishes. Allspice tree produces bunches of white flowers, that later turn into green fruits. These fruits turn red and almost black on maturity.

Allspice fruits resemble peppercorns when they are dried, but with a smooth surface. Dried allspice seeds can be stored for a long time, and used in masala blends as and when required. Powders might spoil sooner, so it’s better to store them as dried seeds.

Allspice is a key ingredient in Jamaican Jerk seasoning, and is also very popular in Middle Eastern countries. They are used in stews, meats, marinades, sausages, curry powders and even in desserts.

These trees are grown in tropical countries as ornamental trees, and also for its uses in cooking. Allspice trees grow well in moist, well-drained soil, full sunlight and occasional rains. They are tolerant of drought once the plants are settled in the soil, and can also withstand poor soil as well as salinity.

These trees are propagated through birds and other animals that eat these fruits, and spread them through their droppings. Allspice seeds germinate faster after passing through the intestinal tract of birds or animals due to some reactions that happen in the gut.

Parts of the Allspice tree have antioxidant, anti-diabetic, and antimicrobial properties, and are hence used in traditional herbal medicine. Leaves and bark are used for smoking meats and other food materials. Allspice is also used in perfumery and aromatherapy due to the intense, warm fragrance. These trees are reasonably pest tolerant, and can grow with very little maintenance.

Propagation is through seeds, layering or grafting.