Allspice is native to the West Indies and the tropical forests of Latin America. Jamaica is the world's leading producer.
Sub-tropical or tropical and needs no special care. Young plants can be killed by frost, but larger ones are more tolerant. In their native territories, they grow at elevations between 500-1300 metres.
The allspice is an attractive evergreen tree that can grow to 10 metres high with a spread of 4 metres. The leaves and possibly the bark have a spicy aroma. The white flowers are strongly perfumed and very attractive to bees and other insects.
They are a member of the very large Myrtaceae Family which includes many familiar plant names like cloves, guavas, feijoas, lillypillies and many more.
They prefer a well-drained, light soil with basic pH in a sunny area. Keep the root zone free from weeds with a layer of good mulch.
Allspice is grown from seed. It is best to obtain the seeds from fresh ripe berries. Germination may begin in two weeks; plant immediately in a good seed-raising mix and plant out when about a year old.
Germination is said to be improved by passage through a bird's gut. Possibly warmth and a bath in a mild acid solution might substitute.
They can also be budded.
Opinion is divided on whether allspice is dioecious or monoecious. The usual advice is to have at least three trees in the hope of obtaining both male and female trees. However, it is on record that isolated trees can bear fruit. In any case, cross pollination probably improves the quantity and quality of the berries.
Seedlings may need some protection from wind, frost and sun when first planted. They do best with good rainfall or irrigation.
Apical pruning is recommended to encourage branching and fruiting.
Allspice is the dried unripe fruit. When ground, the pungent aroma is reminiscent of a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
Whole berries are used in pickled products and medicinal preparations. Ground berries are used to flavour a wide range of food and baked goods. The leaves are also used for tea and flavouring purposes.
Trees can begin bearing at 3 or 4 years. The fruit are harvested by breaking off the twigs bearing the bunches. They should be picked before the berries are fully ripe, as soon as they attain their full size but still green. They are then dried in the sun or in a dryeer.
Susceptible to rust diseases, mealybugs and termites.
Can be grown in a large pot.
At the end of the 19th century pimento was used to make umbrella sticks and this led to the wanton cutting of allspice saplings until strict legislation saved the young Jamaican trees from extinction due to this passing vogue.