All About Allspice

Allspice berries

The name of this spice may lead some to think that it’s a mix of the “fall” spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, but it’s actually a unique plant. The pimento or allspice tree grows mostly in Jamaica. I didn’t know that allspice grew in Florida before I saw it on the list of summer produce available through Redland Organics. The organic allspice in my batch hails from Bee Heaven Farms.

Both the leaves and the berries of the tree have culinary uses. Like bay leaves, allspice leaves can be used to infuse flavors into soups and sauces. However, they have to be used right away because they don’t dry and preserve their flavor like bay leaves. The berries seem to keep for a while; I’m going to see how long they last in my refrigerator. The black berries can be ground and are wonderfully fragrant. According to GourmetSleuth and some other sources I found, approximately five berries equals one teaspoon of ground allspice.

The versatile allspice lends a “je ne sais quois” of flavor to a variety of dishes. It is used in pumpkin and other pies. I’ve even seen allspice in some recipes for homemade steak sauce and homemade ketchup. It is an essential ingredient of jerk seasoning.

This week I used the allspice to make a jerk pork tenderloin from a recipe by our very own Beard-ed lady, Michelle Bernstein. I marinated the pork for 24 hours and it turned out moist and tangy. The aroma of the sauce is reminiscent of another addictive South Florida condiment—mojo criollo.

Jerk Pork Tenderloin

You can get your own allspice by signing up for Redland Organics summer produce updates.

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4 Responses to “All About Allspice”

  1. Thyen
    August 9, 2009 at 9:35 am #

    I live in florida and have an allspice tree. some of the berries are green and some are black. which ones are ready to pick? All? Please let me know when to pick them for drying.

  2. trina
    August 10, 2009 at 7:00 pm #

    When I got my allspice from the farm, some of the berries were green and some were black (see picture at top). When I placed them in the fridge, they all turned black eventually. So, it seems like it would be okay to pick them at either time. I just kept mine in the fridge–they kept for weeks.

  3. trina
    August 11, 2009 at 6:38 pm #

    Here is some info I got in an email about Bee Heaven Farm’s summer produce:
    “Our allspice (aka Jamaica pepper, pimento, West Indies Bay) is ready to harvest. This wonderful spice is also used two ways- the berries as ‘allspice’ familiar in pumpkin pie and jerk recipes, and the leaves, which are commonly referred to as ‘West Indies Bay’. We provide a bag of both! Dry the green berries and store them to use as the dry (whole or ground) spice. Use the ripe (black and soft) berries to eat out of hand (they’re strong and sweet- I call them Nature’s Altoids®). The leaves are best used fresh. Try them to season a stew, fish, or use them to make tea (together with the tough lemongrass tops). “

  4. January 17, 2012 at 6:59 pm #

    On a pimeno tree there can be green or ripe (purple) berries. The green berries are picked and typically sun dried to give you a blackish/brown pimento/allspice that may be ground. The ripe ones are loved by birds and can be used to make delicious pimento liquor.

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