Allspice, also called Jamaica pepper, pepper, myrtle pepper, pimenta, pimento, English pepper or newspice, is the dried unripe fruit ("berries", used as a spice) of Pimenta dioica, a midcanopy tree native to the Greater Antilles, southern Mexico, and Central America, now cultivated in many warm parts of the world.The name 'allspice' was coined as early as 1621 by the English, who thought it combined the flavour of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.
Allspice is the dried fruit of the P. dioica plant. The fruit are picked when green and unripe and are traditionally dried in the sun. When dry, they are brown and resemble large brown peppercorns. The whole fruit have a longer shelf life than the powdered product and produce a more aromatic product when freshly ground before use.
Fresh leaves are used where available. They are similar in texture to bay leaves and are thus infused during cooking and then removed before serving. Unlike bay leaves, they lose much flavour when dried and stored, so do not figure in commerce. The leaves and wood are often used for smoking meats where allspice is a local crop. Allspice can also be found in essential oil form.
Allspice is one of the most important ingredients of Caribbean cuisine. It is used in Caribbean jerk seasoning (the wood is used to smoke jerk in Jamaica, although the spice is a good substitute), in moles, and in pickling; it is also an ingredient in commercial sausage preparations and curry powders. Allspice is also indispensable in Middle Eastern cuisine, particularly in the Levant, where it is used to flavour a variety of stews and meat dishes.
In Palestinian cuisine, for example, many main dishes call for allspice as the sole spice added for flavouring. In America, it is used mostly in desserts, but it is also responsible for giving Cincinnati-style chili its distinctive aroma and flavour. Allspice is commonly used in Great Britain, and appears in many dishes, including cakes. Even in many countries where allspice is not very popular in the household, as in Germany, it is used in large amounts by commercial sausage makers. It is a main flavour used in barbecue sauces.In the West Indies, an allspice liqueur called "pimento dram" is produced.
Allspice has also been used as a deodorant. Volatile oils found in the plant containeugenol, a weak antimicrobial agent.
Health benefits of Allspice
The active principles in the allspice found to have been anti-inflammatory, rubefacient (warming and soothing), carminative and anti-flatulent properties.
Allspice contains health benefiting essential oils such as eugenol, a phenylpropanoids class of chemical compound, which gives pleasant, sweet aromatic fragrances to this spice. It also contains caryophyllene, methyleugenol, glycosides, tannins, quercetin, resin, and sesquiterpenes. At the processing units, these volatile essential oils are obtained through distillation process using this spice corn. The outer coat of the allspice-berries is believed to have the greatest concentration of some of the compounds of medicinal activities.
As in black peppercorns, the active principles in the allspice may increase the motility of the gastro-intestinal tract as well as augment the digestion power by increasing enzyme secretions inside the stomach and intestines.
Eugenol, has local anesthetic and antiseptic properties, hence; useful in gum and dental treatment procedures. Recent research studies have shown that preparation made from allspice oil mixed with extractions from garlic, and oregano can work against E.coli, Salmonella and L.monocytogenes infections.
The spice is enriched with the good amount of minerals like potassium, manganese, iron, copper, selenium, and magnesium. Iron is an important co-factor for cytochrome-oxidase enzymes during cellular metabolism. It is also required for red blood cell production in the bone marrow. Being an important component of cell and body fluids, potassium helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the powerful antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
Further, the spice also contains very good amounts of vitamin A, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), riboflavin, niacin and vitamin-C. Vitamin C is a powerful natural antioxidant; regular consumption of foods rich in vitamin C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals.
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