Jamaican PimentoThe pimento tree is indigenous to the Caribbean Islands.
It was found growing in Jamaica by early Spanish explorers who were quite impressed with the taste and aroma of the berries and the leaves. Pimento trees were later discovered in Cuba and were presumed to have been taken there by migratory birds which had eaten the berries. They have also been found in Mexico, but it is Jamaica that has the longest history, having been in continuous production since the tree was identified in about the year 1509.
The name Pimento originated from the Spanish word "pimienta" (pepper or peppercorn). To most English speaking people the tree is called "pimento" and the berries "allspice". The name allspice originated from the popular notion that the pimento berry contains the characteristic flavour and aroma of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper, all combined in one spice.
The pimento tree, Pimenta dioica, formerly officinalis, Lindl., belongs to the family Myrtaceae and is closely related to the Bay Tree and to Cloves. It is an evergreen tree, medium in size and in favourable locations will attain heights of from 6 to 15 m. Primary branches are generally formed about 1-3 m above the ground. Whilst both male and female varieties will produce blossoms, it is believed that only the blossoms of the female mature to give berries
At the end of the nineteenth century, it became fashionable to have umbrellas handles made of pimento. The great demand led to wanton cutting of the saplings and it was only through strict controls legislated in 1882 and equally strict enforcement of them that saved the young pimento trees from disappearing altogether.
Pimento is the major spice produced in Jamaica, and Jamaica is still one of its' chief producers.
The main use of the pimento in Jamaica is as the primary ingredient in Jerk Seasoning. The leave and the wood are used when making authentic jerk that can be found in places such as Boston, Portland. It is also ground and used in baking and many other preparations as Allspice. Pimento is also used to make a highly prized liqueur, traditionally served at Christmas time.