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ALLSPICE

Pimento, Bay Rum Berry, Jamaica Pepper, Pepper Myrtle, Toute-epice, Clove Pepper

Pimenta dioica syn. Pimento officinalis, Myrtus dioica, Eugenia pimenta F. Myrtaceae

Description

An attractive, evergreen tree to 10 metres, with dark-green, glossy, oblong-lanceolate shaped, clove smelling leaves 15cm long. Clusters of the small, fluffy, very sweet smelling, white flowers on the ends of the branches, appear in summer, and are followed by round berries 6 -10mm diameter, which ripen to dark purple. There is a thin layer of soft, sweet, aromatic pulp around the seeds, which is very tasty and reminiscent of cloves. Even the bark of the tree and the branches and twigs taste like cloves. Seeds are about the size of a peppercorn.

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Allspice
Allspice

The part of the tree that is called ‘allspice’ of commerce is the unripe berries that are picked and dried. Fruit is harvested when fully developed, but still green, then fermented by curing, drying and sweating, which creates an enzyme reaction that produces the strong pungent aroma and flavour of allspice. The best way of describing the aroma is a combination of cloves, cinnamon and a hint of nutmeg. When I take visitors on farm walks and give them a leaf to smell, usually their faces light up as they inhale the aroma from the leaf, crushed in their hands, and they say how absolutely wonderful the smell is and that it is cloves or cinnamon. When berries are fully dried, with a moisture level of 10-12 percent, they go dark brown. Allspice, like all tropical spices, to keep aroma and flavour, needs to be stored away from heat, humidity and light. When ground, the powder has a wonderful, warm aroma, of cloves and is a dark, brown colour.

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Allspice is warming to the body, acting as a stimulant, and also very settling to the stomach and gastro-intestinal tract. The eugenol content is said to promote digestive enzymes in the body. For this reason, using the spice in food or drinking as a tea after a meal, is most beneficial. Eugenol is also used by dentists as a local anaesthetic on the teeth and gums. Allspice oil is applied to painful teeth and gums, similarly to clove oil. For toothache, a fresh leaf of allspice can be chewed, and then placed in the area of the tooth giving pain.

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