Allspice, contrary to the sound of the name, is one single spice, not a blend of “all spices”. Allspice is the dried berry of the evergreen pimento tree, which is native to the West Indies and South American. The berry is also known as a Jamaica pepper, as Jamaica provides most of the world’s supply of allspice. The dried berries are dark brown and look very similar to black peppercorns, though they are typically a bit larger in size, and they are sold both whole and ground. Their name actually comes from the fact that they taste like a combination of spices, including cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Allspice is used in all kinds of sweet and savory preparations, and is often paired with the aforementioned spices in baked goods to add a little bit more dimension to foods like gingerbread cookies and spice cakes. In savory cooking, allspice is a central component of many Caribbean dishes, including jerk seasoning, and in Middle Eastern cuisine. It can also be found in many moles and curry sauces.
Whole allspice berries can last for many years when stored in a cool, dry place and and they will release their pungent aroma only when they are ground. Ground allspice will start to lose its potency in 6-12 months and should be replaced at least once a year if you want to ensure that your baked goods and savory dishes have the best flavor.