Allspice – The Spanish Pepper Imposter

Pimenta dioica Allspice plant Allspice Berries Whole Allspice Ground Allspice

Allspice made its entrance onto the world culinary stage as the Spanish pepper imposter, how?


Allspice has the botanical name of Pimenta dioica, and is a member of the myrtaceae family, common name myrtle family, and is a dried, cured, unripe berry from a tropical evergreen tree which is native to Jamaica, Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras and Southern Mexico.


The berry was mistaken by the Spanish for a pepper since the berry resembles peppercorns and thus the Spanish initially thought that they had found a new source of the highly prized peppercorn, thus the misapplied name of pimenta which means pepper in Spanish. Buying/Storage

When purchasing the spice whole berries should be spherical and dark reddish brown in color having a rough surface due to volatile oil glands. The berry should have a mild, pleasant aroma resembling cloves. When the whole form of the spice is stored away from extremes of heat, light and humidity will retain its flavor for up to three years.

The ground spice should be rich and dark brown and have a mild aroma reminiscent of cloves with cinnamon notes and have a somewhat oily texture. When stored like its whole form away from extremes of heat, light and humidity the powdered version will have a storage life of 12-18 months.


The spice is a favorite in many recipes for sweet cakes and biscuits, is widely used in the making of barbeque sauces and pasta sauces. The Scandinavians use it in flavoring raw herring and is often used in pickles, pates, and smoked meats.

The spice is also found in many curry blends and commercial spice mixtures used for seasoning seafood and red meats. It also complements vegetable soups, especially tomato soups.

For more information about allspice click on the link to

For some great sections on herbs and spices some great references are:

• The Spice and Herb Bible – Second Edition by Ian Hemphill with recipes by Kate Hemphill

• The Food Encyclopedia by Jacques L. Rolland and Carol Sherman with other contributors

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Allspice Botanical Cycle

Allspice Botanical Image

Myrtle Family