Fresh Allspice Berries Add Kick

By Edible South Florida | August 10, 2015
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Allspice berries at Bee Heaven Farm
Allspice berries at Bee Heaven Farm

While its ground form may recall warm flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, allspice (Pimenta dioica) berries, used fresh, add an intriguing spice with an ever-so-gently hint of heat. Typically, the berries are picked when green, dried and used in many cuisines, including Caribbean jerk, pickling seasonings, sausages, Mexican moles and Palestinian dishes. Fresh leaves are often used like bay leaves.

But what about the purple berries that ripen in August and September in South Florida?

They’re so sweet, spicy and tasty – “Nature’s Altoids,” says Margie Pikarsky of Bee Heaven Farms – that chef Adri Garcia of Verde Community Farm and Market in Homestead decided to try cooking with them.

Banana allspice muffins
Banana allspice muffins

“I’ve never worked with them before, but I had tasted them at Margie’s,” she says. “I thought of using them like blueberries, but since they pack such a big flavor,  I figured we’d tone them down a bit.” She took the entire pint, whirred them in the food processor, added some sugar and a pinch of salt and pepper to make a paste. “If it’s too thick, add a teaspoon or two of water,” she says. “I then worked on a banana toasted walnut muffin recipe. Once that was done, I added about 1½ tablespoons of the allspice berry paste to the batter.”

The result was a spicy, moist muffin, the fragrant allspice adding more complexity than cinnamon.
Garcia has been experimenting with other uses for the allspice paste, such as a Bundt coffee cake. “It really enhances the spice flavor to anything, especially using fruit such as apples, mangos and bananas,” she says. “I figure I’ll also be using it in pumpkin pie as well.”
Where to find it: Many South Floridians may have allspice in their yards; the shrubs, which can grow to 30-40 feet, bear clusters of the small berries. Green berries turn purple when ripe. Some local vendors may sell ripe berries at local farmers markets. If you have too many to use, freeze ripe berries. Find chef Adri’s muffins and cakes at Verde Community Farm and Market.
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