Can you settle a question for us? I say that allspice is a blend of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. My wife says that it is an actual spice. Which is it?--Bert
Allspice is the dried fruit of the evergreen myrtle plant Pimenta Dioica. It gets its name from the fact that it tastes, as you noticed, like cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. The fruit is picked green and dried, usually in the sun, undergoing a color change to brown. It is available as whole seeds or more commonly already ground into powder.
Allspice is used in both sweet and savory dishes. It can appear in Caribbean jerk or Middle Eastern tagine recipes, as well as in desserts like cookies or cakes. It also is used in prepared foods such as sausages, pickles and some condiments like ketchup or barbecue sauce. One of my favorite uses is to put allspice into tomato-based marinara sauce.
It originated in the Central and South America and was brought to Europe by early explorers. Some sources say that Christopher Columbus brought it back from the Caribbean.
If you don't have any on hand, you can substitute 1/2 teaspoon each of cinnamon and cloves, along with a pinch of nutmeg for 1 teaspoon of allspice.