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Allspice, also known by the scientific name Pimenta officinaus, is the fruit of a tropical American tree that belongs to the myrtle family. It is remarkably showy, with beautiful shiny green and aromatic leaves. The berry is picked green, and then sun-dried for about a week, leaving the berry looking like a large, plump peppercorn. Early seventeenth century explorers named the berry pimenta, which is the Spanish word for pepper. Back in those days pepper, and other spices, translated directly into money, with the spices usually being worth their weight in gold. Apparently though, the explorers didn't bring any allspice back with them, since it wasn't until more than a century later that this spice really started to become popular throughout Europe.
Allspice is a wonderful spice that has a unique history when compared to that of other spices. The contrast lies in the fact that the warm, sweet allspice has virtually no history of greed, thievery, or bloodshed. In addition, allspice has comparatively little in the way of a culinary history. This spice was brought to the American colonies from the West Indian Islands along with their cargos of rum and molasses. In the early days of the American colonies, allspice was a welcome relief to the housewives of the day. Due to the expense and rarity of spices from other parts of the world, allspice created a versatile new option that could be used instead.
Allspice has since been used as a "traditional" alternative spice for Indian puddings, spiced or pickled meats, and even as a seasoning for pumpkin pies. In addition, the New World allspice also blends well with various other New World foods. Some examples of these other foods include things like tomatoes, sweet potatoes and yams, squashes and pumpkins, spice cakes, pickles, and even in chocolate. Since it has been found, and its increase in popularity, allspice has become indispensable for things like mincemeat and even in preparing hams.
Keep in mind though that while allspice can blend wonderfully with other spices, you will want to leave out any and all cloves that a recipe may call for. This is because in allspice, the dominating taste is that of cloves. Due to this, when used in long term cooking it can help impart a wonderful taste. Some examples of this use would be to tie a few of the whole berries into some cheesecloth bag, and using it for pot roast flavoring, or soaking in marinades, soups, and other dishes.