Ye Old Spice
What’s tropical and evergreen and smells like a combination of cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg?
Allspice! Or Pimenta dioica. You’ve probably heard of allspice before if you’re a seasoned cook (pun intended) or a foodie of any sort.
Allspice is only grown in the Western Hemisphere because it is native to South and Central American rainforest. Not too many of those wild allspice trees are still standing, but you can find some of the best cultivated ones in Jamaica as that is where the climate and soil are best for the trees.
The berries of the tree are used to make allspice spice. Throughout history they’ve been used as an embalming agent, chocolate flavoring, and even for meat curing. That’s an interesting, if not unnerving, combination of uses. The spice wasn’t brought to Europe until the discovery of the New World. Once European explorers discovered the aromatic trees, they tried to bring them home and replant them in spice producing, eastern regions of Europe, but to no avail. Allspice was popular enough, but it had a hard time competing with the pre-established spice dominance of cinnamon and pepper and with the sexy new sugar and coffee imports from the new world that were much more profitable than allspice. Nonetheless, it was quite popular in England and eventually earned the name “English Spice”.
Nowadays we use allspice in jerk meats, pickling, and mulling and it’s frequently added into ice cream, pumpkin pie, and cakes. It’s also used in cosmetics, particularly in men’s toiletries. Hm, what brand was that again…..
“Allspice.” The Epicentre. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Aug. 2016. <http://theepicentre.com/spice/allspice-2/>.