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Allspice nutrition facts

Allspice, also known popularly as Jamaican pepper or pimento, is one of the widely used spices in the Mexican and other Central American cuisines. This spice corn is a dried "unripe" fruit obtained from an evergreen tropical shrub belonging to the Myrtle (Myrtaceae) family, of the genus: pimento.

Scientific name: Pimenta dioica.

Allspice
Allspice corns.
Photo courtesy: Steven Jackson

The pimento tree is native to the tropical evergreen rainforest of the Central American region and Caribbean islands. It begins yield after about five years of implantation.

Unripe green berries picked up from the tree when they reach full size. They are then thoroughly subjected to dry under sunlight. Thus shriveled berries appear similar to that of brown peppercorns, and measure about 6 mm in diameter. Unlike in peppercorns which have only one centrally placed seed, allspice contains two seeds.

Ground allspice features sharp spicy bite and aroma that closely resemble a mixture of black-pepper, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon.

Health benefits of Allspice

  • Certain active principles in allspice have been found to have anti-inflammatory, rubefacient (warmth and soothing), carminative, and anti-flatulent properties.

  • Pimento 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, methyl eugenol, 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 these medicinally important compounds.

  • As in black peppercorns, the active principles in the allspice may increase the motility of the gastrointestinal tract. They also aid in the digestion through facilitating enzyme secretions inside the stomach and intestines.

  • Eugenol has local anesthetic and antiseptic properties. It found useful in gum and dental treatment procedures. Recent research studies have revealed that a kind of traditional preparation made from a mixture of allspice oil, garlic extraction, and oregano can combat against E.coli, Salmonella and L.monocytogenes infections.

  • The spice composes good amount of minerals like potassium, manganese, iron, copper, selenium, and magnesium. Iron is an essential co-factor for cytochrome oxidase enzyme during cellular metabolism. It is also required for red blood cell production in the bone marrow. Potassium, being an important component of cell and body fluids, helps regulate heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is utilized in the human body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.

  • Further, this spice also carries a great amount 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 human body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals.


See the table below for in depth analysis of nutrients:

Allspice (Pimenta dioica), Nutrition value per 100g

(Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)

Principle Nutrient value Percentage of RDA
Energy 263 cal 13%
Carbohydrates 72.12 g 55%
Protein 6.09 g 11%
Total Fat 8.69 g 29%
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Dietary Fiber 21.6 g 54%
Vitamins
Folates 36 µg 9%
Niacin 2.860 mg 18%
Pantothenic acid 0.210 mg 16%
Pyridoxine 0.210 mg 16%
Riboflavin 0.063 mg 8.5%
Thiamin 0.101 mg 2.5%
Vitamin A 540 IU 18%
Vitamin C 39.2 mg 65%
Electrolytes
Sodium 77 mg 5%
Potassium 1044 mg 22%
Minerals
Calcium 661 mg 66%
Copper 0.553 mg 61%
Iron 7.06 mg 88%
Magnesium 135 mg 34%
Manganese 2.943 mg 128%
Phosphorus 113 mg 16%
Zinc 1.01 mg 9%

Selection and storage

allspice corns1
Allspice corns.

Allspice corns can be available year around. In the stores, buy whole allspice corns instead of ground (powder), since, often it may contain adulterated spicy powders. Look for the pimentos that feature wholesome, heavy, round and compact.

The pimento corns can be stored at room temperature for many months and milled as and when required. Once ground or powdered, pimento should be kept in the refrigerator in airtight containers and should be used as early as possible before it loses its flavor; largely because of the evaporation of essential oils.


Culinary uses

To keep fragrance and flavor, allspice should be ground just before preparing dishes and added to the cooking recipes in the final stages.

Here are some serving methods:

jamaican jerk spice
Jamaican jerk spice-rub chicken with sauce.
Photo courtesy: cherrylet

    Pimentocorns widely used in the Caribbean cuisine. In Jamaica, along with the scotch bonnet peppers, they are one of the two main ingredients in popular Jamaican jerk spice. Along with other complementing spices, its mixture (paste) is being used to rub, and to marinate chicken, fish, and meat.

  • Some Indian vegetarian and chicken curries found extensive use of this spice. In the Middle East, it employed in meat and rice dishes.

  • The spice has also used in the preparation of soups, barbecue sauces, pickling and as a main ingredient in a variety of curry powders.

  • It also employed to prepare liquors in many Caribbean countries. A kind of local drink known as Jamaican dram made from using allspice.


Medicinal uses

    The essential oil, eugenol derived from the allspice berry has been in therapeutic use in dentistry as a local anesthetic and antiseptic for teeth and gum.

  • A kind of decoction obtained from this spice sometimes used in treating flatulence and indigestion in traditional medicine. However, there is little or no scientific data to support such claims.

  • The essential volatile oils in the pimento spice work as a rubefacient, (meaning that it irritates local skin area and expands blood vessels resulting in increasing blood flow to make skin feel warmer). Its oil is a popular home remedy for arthritis and sore muscles, used either as a poultice or in hot baths. (Medical disclaimer).


Safety profile

Allspice may cause severe allergic reactions in hypersensitive individuals and, therefore, should be avoided whenever warranted. Consumption of dishes prepared with excess spice can cause gastrointestinal irritation, central nervous system depression, seizures (in toxic doses).

Furthermore, recipes made with this spice should be avoided in individuals suffering from stomach ulcers, ulcerative colitis, and diverticulitis conditions. (Medical disclaimer).



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Further reading:

1. USDA Agricultural research service.

2. Gernot-Katzer's spice pages.

3. USDA National Nutrient Database. (opens new window)


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