Fresh Allspice Berries Add Kick
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.
“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.”