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Many people assume that allspice is a mix of ground spices but the name is misleading. It is in fact the dried Pimenta dioica plant, which is also known as Jamaica pepper, Myrtle pepper or pimento.

The English, who highly prized its flavor, named it allspice because they felt it combined the flavors of cinammon, clove, nutmeg and pepper in one fruit.

Allspice does indeed have many of these flavors although when it is fresh it is also has more fiery heat than those spices.

It is best to buy allspice as whole pods rather than the ground variety, which loses its flavor more quickly.

Allspice is used in a variety of ways around the world. It is most commonly used in the Caribbean where is is key ingredient in jerk seasoning, pickling and mole sauces. In England it is widely used in cakes while in Germany it is used to flavor sausage meat. In the middle East and north Africa it is used to flavor stews and slow cooked meat dishes.