Confused already? Yes, our favorite allspice is not a mixed spice. I mean, it’s not like five-spice powder which (commonly) contains star anise, cloves, Chinese cinnamon, Sichuan pepper and Fennel seeds. This is just one spice.
It’s the dried unripe fruit (the berries) of Pimenta dioica, a tree native to Central and South America. So why do we call it allspice then?
Well, because we know you love this kind of stuff, here’s the answer. (the article continues after the ad)
It’s not clear who first named the spice “allspice”; some say it’s the Spanish while others say (including the Oxford English Dictionary) it’s the English. Whatever the case though, the spice got its name because of its aroma, which reminded people a combination of flavors – especially cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. In reality though, its flavor is somewhat a mild and fruity version of cloves.
Despite not being sure about the origin of the name though, we do know that it was the Spanish who first invented it back in the 15th century when they were exploring the Americas. And the reason why allspice is called Pimento in much of the world, is also very interesting:
Because pepper was a highly valuable spice at the time, the Spanish were desperately looking for peppercorns in the newly found “New World”. So, when they bumped into allspice berries, they mistook it for pepper. That’s why they named it pimienta – which is the Spanish word for pepper. When they understood their mistake and in an attempt to avoid this pimento/pepper confusion, the spice trade started referring to it as allspice (for the reason mentioned above).