Spices: What is Allspice, Pimento and the West Indian Bay Leaf?

West Indian Bay Leaves are from the same tree that produces Allspice.

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Allspice | Pimento | West Indian Bay Tree

Allspice is the unripe and dried highly aromatic berry of the allspice large, evergreen tree. In Caribbean cuisine, allspice is an important spice, with  its leaves and wood being used as well as the berries. Native to West Indies, it is produced mainly in Jamaica and some in Mexico. In India, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are producers of allspice. It became known in Europe only long after it was discovered by Columbus in the Caribbean. Allspice is so called as it combines the flavours of cloves, nutmeg, pepper and cinnamon. Its pungent aroma is very clove like.

It is popular from Jamacia to Mexio, and is used in the Ethiopian spice mixture berebere. In Caribbean cuisine, allspice is an important spice, with even its leaves and wood being used.

The English and the US also have a love of allspice, for slow cooked dishes, soups and sauces, and for flavouring pickled vegetables. Scandinavians use it in fine pastries, and in the quaint quatre espices of the French. It is used in puddings and custards. Allspice has not been integrated into the Asian or Middle Eastern cuisines, although it is sometimes claimed to be used in some curry mixes.

Allspice is well known for its preservative qualities. It was used as an embalming agent in early days. It is used as a preservative. Pimento oil is used extensively in the processed food industry and in the production of pharmaceuticals and in perfumery.

West Indian Bay Leaf

It is the leaf of this tree that is called the West Indian Bayleaf. It is strongly aromatic with a distinct and fascinating flavour, like cloves with a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg, and the taste is similar but more peppery.

allspice West Indian Bay leaf bayleaf

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