The name "allspice" has created the common misconception that allspice is a combination of other spices. In reality, allspice is made of only one spice, the dried berry of the Jamaican pimento tree.
Allspice got its name from its complex flavor, which tastes like a mixture of spices such as cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and pepper. It's also known as Jamaican pepper, baharat and pimento; the latter term comes from the fact that Spaniards mistook it for black pepper.
Dried allspice berries are 1/8 to 1/4 inch in diameter and have hard, wrinkled, brown skins. They resemble brown peppercorns. You can also find allspice in its ground form, a fine brown powder.
Allspice is a component of both sweet and savory dishes. It's an important part of Jamaican jerk spice mixtures, a common part of pickling liquid or brine in European food, and a component of cakes and other desserts.
Mara Shannon is a writer whose work appears on various websites. Shannon also blogs about gaming and literature. Shannon holds a Bachelor of Arts in music with a focus on performance.