Pimento Allspice Tree: Using the Leaves, Berries and Branches

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Pimento Allspice

I have come to love my Pimento Allspice tree. Over the last few years, I have trialed and tested many ways of using this plant and feel that I can finally say with complete confidence that it is one of my top 5 favorite spice plants we grow in our yard.

In my quest to find out how best to utilize this plant, I discovered many other benefits and uses that this tree can produce, as you will discover further down.

Pimento Allspice

Are Bay leaves and Pimento leaves the same?

Bay leaves, and Pimento leaves are not the same. This is a common misconception that many folks have. Even though both dried leaves have similar uses in the culinary world, the flavor profiles of both are very different. They are entirely different species of trees, to begin with.

The Pimento leaf imparts the same flavors as its berries, only slightly more subtle. A combined mix of aromas reminiscent of Cloves, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, and a hint of Pepper. Hence the name Pimento Allspice.

Pimento and Bay Leaves
The common Bay leaf on the left is much smaller than the Pimento Allspice leaf on the right

The Pimento leaf has the botanical name of Pimenta dioica, it is better known to many people as the Allspice tree, also known as Newspice, Myrtle pepper, and the Jamaican pepper, and it belongs to the family Myrtaceae.

The Bay leaf, however, is botanically known as Laurus nobilis and is one of the most common spices used in European cooking. It is readily available on supermarket shelves sold simply as Bay Leaves. I find it has a very subtle flavor of eucalyptus.

Are Pimento Berries and Peppercorns the same?

Even though the Pimento Allspice berries are also known as the Jamaican peppercorns, they are not the same as Peppercorns that often pair with Salt.

The Jamaican Peppercorn is the name that Allspice berries are sold under in Jamaica.

Pimento Peppercorn
The Pimento Allspice berries (left) and the Peppercorns (right) are both very different in appearance

The Jamaican Pepper got its name thanks to its discovery by Christopher Columbus.

On his journey of discovery to the “New World” at the beginning of the 16th century, Columbus was seeking other common spices of the day, such as pepper, cinnamon, and cloves.

As he had never seen a real pepper vine , when he found this wonderful plant in Jamaica that produced berries similar to peppercorns, he gave it the name of Jamaican Pepper and the genus Pimenta, from the word “pimiento”, which is Spanish for peppercorn.

The size of the Pimento Allspice berries (or Peppercorns) are similar to small dried chickpeas.

The familiar peppercorns (as in “salt and pepper”) are the fruits of a flowering vine in the Piperaceae family.

The green, wide-leafed vines grow long tendrils where cylindrical clusters of berries ripen. The small fruits have a thin skin, very little actual fruit, and a single large seed. These are only 1/4 the size of an Allspice berry.

How tall does a Pimento Allspice tree grow?

Pimento Allspice tree
The patterning on the Pimento Allspice

The Pimento tree is said to grow to 30 feet (9 mts) tall. We live in the northern tropics of Australia, and even though I have read that our tree will reach this height and potentially higher, I believe this will all depend on its growing conditions.

At nearly eight years now, our tree is only three mts tall. It is growing in one of the driest spots on our block, and even though we have heavily mulched around its base with logs and tree cuttings, it is small for its age.

However, this suits us as it allows for easier harvesting of berries, leaves, and branches. Many more of these trees will be planted shortly, and we will then see if the Pimento can grow taller depending on the different soil conditions.

We grow many plants in our yard, all of which have beneficial uses. If you would like to read more on other plants that we believe are hardy plants you can rely on, this article will give you more information.

How are Pimento Allspice leaves and berries used?

1. Methods we use to Preserve Pimento Allspice for long-term storage.

  • I dehydrate the Pimento Leaves and store them in air-tight jars. I use these leaves in recipes as a replacement leaf where regular Bay leaves are required.
  • The majority of the dried leaves I grind into a fine powder, which is used almost daily. This is how I prefer my Pimento leaves to be preserved.
  • Pimento Allspice Berries are dried and used where a more intense aroma and flavor of Allspice is required by grinding as needed as these have a higher concentration of the oils.
  • The stems and sticks of the tree, when pruned, are available for adding a smoky-sweet note to BBQ smoking and cooking.
  • making essential oil by Distilling the Leaves and Berries.
dehydrated Pimento leaf powder
Dehydrated and powdered Pimento Allspice Leaves

2. What’s the difference between Allspice and Mixed spice?

Mixed Spice combines many other spices, and Allspice is simply the ground-up berries of the Pimento Tree.

Mixed spice is a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, allspice, mace, and sometimes coriander seed and caraway are added. Different brands, different combinations.

In my cooking, I will insert my Pimento powder, leaves, or berries if any recipe that may require Cinnamon, Nutmeg, or Cloves to be added.

Below is a list of foods in which Pimento Allspice Powder can be used if you would like to reduce Mixed spice use.

  • pumpkin pie
  • fruit cake
  • spice cakes
  • pancake/pikelets
  • biscuits
  • ginger bread
  • banana bread
  • upside-down fruit cakes
  • cooked deserts eg baked custard
  • add to liqueurs to spice flavor
  • pickling
  • chutney
  • relish
  • tomato sauce
  • canning
  • stewing
  • soups
  • Rissoles/meat patties
  • marinating meats
  • marinating vegetables
  • BBQ smoking
  • Hot tea Beverages
cooking with powdered Pimento Allspice
Adding some powdered Pimento Allspice leaf to mixtures when baking biscuits (cookies)

3. Possible Health benefits of Pimento Allspice.

Finding plants to help you combat common aches and pains in a healthy way has been happening for centuries. Growing plants that are beneficial to our health as well as adding flavor to our cooked dishes is a bonus.

The Pimenta dioica plant contains many medicinal compounds that have been used consistently for many years and the information has traveled far and wide to many distant countries such as India where it has a known entry in the Ayurveda system of medicine.

In Jamaica tea is used to help relieve upset stomachs, colds and menstrual cramps.

Costa Ricans use it for indigestion and flatulence.

In Guatemala they use the crushed allspice berries externally to help treat bruises, joint and muscle pain.

In my search to understand the uses of the Pimento Allspice plant better, I was pleasantly surprised with what I found; I encourage you to invest some time in researching for yourself the many benefits of this Plant.

Below are just a few things that we already use it for, and a few others that I will be using if and when the need should arise. Our family has been incorporating this spice into our daily lifestyle and will continue to do so.

  1. Using the spice in food
    • drinking as tea, after a meal is most beneficial as the abundance of the common polyphenol Eugenol in Allspice is said to promote digestive enzymes in the body.
    • Allspice is warming to the body and acts as a stimulant, and can help to settle the stomach
  2. Some dentists use eugenol as a local anesthetic on teeth and gums.
    • For toothache, a fresh leaf of allspice can be chewed and then placed near/on the ache.
    • Allspice oil is applied to painful teeth and gums, similar to clove oil.
    • Powdered Pimento leaves rubbed on gums and then rinsed off can help with gingivitis.
  3. Allspice may contain compounds that could help prevent bacterial infections
  4. Allspice essential oil is known to promote circulation to relieve pain from muscle cramps and strains if added to a warm bath.
  5. Because of its comforting scent, it has been used for headaches and to help combat fatigue, stress, and depression.
    • When choosing aromatherapy blends, Pimento Allspice blends well with Ginger, Lavender, and many other spices.
Pimento Allspice Bush
Leaves of the Pimento Allspice Tree ( Pimenta Dioica)

4. How is Pimento Allspice used outside the Kitchen?

Besides its uses in the kitchen as a spice or for smoking in the outdoor barbeque, the distilled Allspice Essential Oil also has many potential benefits.

The essential oil from Allspice has been used in many ways, here are only a few.

  1. Perfumery
    • Candle making
  2. Arthritis
    • Rheumatism
  3. Muscular Cramps
    • Stiffness
    • Muscle Tone
  4. Nausea
  5. In oil diffuser
    • Nervous Tension
    • Exhaustion
    • Depression
    • Cough and Cold relief
    • Bronchitis
  6. Natural alternate for pesticides
    • and fungicide in the garden
  7. Neuralgia

{Sources: Julia Lawless  – The Encyclopedia Of Essential Oils and Michael Castleman –The Healing Herbs }

Conclusion

I have only scratched the surface of the many potential uses of this plant. The Pimento leaves, berries, stems, and branches have many benefits in our lifestyle, whether in pantry stores, cooking, or in and around the house.

Growing such a valuable plant that can be preserved in many ways and stored for future use during the year is just one more step towards self-sufficiency in our Home.

This article was written by Tui Blanch. She is Co-owner of TheTropicalHomestead.com and has well over 20yrs experience in preserving and storing food.