The pimento tree is indigenous to the Caribbean Islands.
It was found growing in Jamaica by early Spanish explorers who were quite impressed with the taste and aroma of the berries and the leaves. Pimento trees were later discovered in Cuba and were presumed to have been taken there by migratory birds which had eaten the berries. They have also been found in Mexico, but it is Jamaica that has the longest history, having been in continuous production since the tree was identified in about the year 1509.
The name Pimento originated from the Spanish word "pimienta" (pepper or peppercorn). To most English speaking people the tree is called "pimento" and the berries "allspice". The name allspice originated from the popular notion that the pimento berry contains the characteristic flavour and aroma of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper, all combined in one spice.
The pimento tree, Pimenta dioica, formerly officinalis, Lindl., belongs to the family Myrtaceae and is closely related to the Bay Tree and to Cloves. It is an evergreen tree, medium in size and in favourable locations will attain heights of from 6 to 15 m. Primary branches are generally formed about 1-3 m above the ground. Whilst both male and female varieties will produce blossoms, it is believed that only the blossoms of the female mature to give berries.
|1494||Columbus visited Jamaica in May on his 2nd voyage of discovery|
|1509||Sevilla la Nueva founded by Juan de Esquivel|
|1534||Capital moved to Villa de la Vega (Spanish Town)|
|1601||Earliest reference of the use of pimento in London.|
|1611||Population estimated as 1500, including 74 taino and 523 spaniards and 588 slaves.|
|1655||English invasion led by Admiral Penn and General Venables|
|1693||Pimento was marketed as sweet scented Jamaica pepper|
|1700||Population recorded as 40,000 slaves and 7,000 whites|
|1721||Pimento was first listed in the London Pharmacopoeia.|
|1739||429 sugar estates in operation in Jamaica|
|1744||Botanic Gardens established at Bath, St Thomas|
|1756||Official mail service
established between England,
the West Indies and New York
|1760||West Indian Committee founded in London|
|1761||Prices in London were between 6.25-9.25 pence/pound.|
|1763||King's House in Spanish Town completed|
|1765||Sugar Act passed|
|1774||Publication of "History of Jamaica" by Edward Long|
|1782||Cinnamon, Mango (number
11), Jackfruit, Kola, Camphor
Litchi, Turmeric, Rose-Apple and Date Palm introduced.
|1783||Offer of 100 pounds to anyone growing more than 200 nutmeg trees|
|1787||Introduction of Sarsaparilla from Honduras|
|1789||767 sugar estates and 607 coffee plantations in operation|
|1790||Introduction of cow peas|
|1791||Introduction of maize, the afou, acom and Guinea yams|
|1793||Captain Bligh introduced Breadfruit (about 347 plants) and transported ackee to Kew|
|1796||Introduction of Otaheite apple and Bourbon cane by Bligh|
|1797||Exports of coffee to Britain nearly 7 million lbs.|
|1800||Population estimated as 300,000 slaves and 20,000 whites|
|1803||Kingston made a Corporate City|
|1826||Population recorded as 336,927|
|1829||First great cattle fair held in St Ann|
|1836||The Bank of Jamaica formed|
|1838||Total emancipation 1st August|
|1840||Zebu cattle imported.|
|1843||East Indian immigration started|
|Central Agricultural Society of Jamaica founded|
|Indian cattle imported.|
|1844||Hereford bulls imported|
|1845||15 mile stretch of
the oldest British colonial railroad
|1850||First cases of Asiatic cholera occurred|
|1854||Royal Society of Arts
formed and products
sent to the Paris exhibition
|1858||First issue of Jamaica postage stamp|
|1859||Land purchased for the Castleton Botanic Garden|
|1860||First shipment of Cinchona seeds to Jamaica from Kew Gardens|
|1863||Castleton Gardens started. Toll gates abolished.|
|1869||Fruit trade with the
United States started
High alumina soils reported
|1871||Kingston becomes the new capital city|
|1871||Sixty varieties of sugar
cane imported from Mauritius
and planted at Castleton gardens
|1872||Mongoose imported from India|
|1873||Victoria market opened|
|1874||Cayenne pineapple introduced|
|1876||Street cars started in Kingston|
|1881||Panama canal construction started|
strict controls on cutting of pimento saplings
|1885||railroad extended to Porus and Ewarton|
|1890's||American syndicate extended the railroad to Montego Bay and Port Antonio|
|1891||Irish potato cultivation started|
|1893||Bahama grass, Alfalfa, Cherry, Apricot and Orange introduced|
|1895||Jamaica Agricultural Society formed|
|1908||Vere sugar factory
The largest quantity of pimento produced 11,147 metric ton.
|1910||Wireless telegraph station established|
|1911||77 sugar estates in operation|
|1920||Manufacture of oil from pimento leaves started|
|1926||Duckenfield sugar factory started|
|1980||Smallest quantity of pimento produced, 888 metric ton.|
|1987||Export of pimento products deregulated|
|2006||Export of pimento products estimated at US$5 million annually.|
At the end of the nineteenth century, it became fashionable to have umbrellas handles made of pimento. The great demand led to wanton cutting of the saplings and it was only through strict controls legislated in 1882 and equally strict enforcement of them that saved the young pimento trees from disappearing altogether.
Pimento is the major spice produced in Jamaica, and Jamaica is still one of its' chief producers. The quality of pimento is rated by the amount of oil it contains and the composition of the oil. Jamaica pimento contains about 4% volatile oil and the eugenol content varies from 30-90%.
The following sensitive map is a simulation of a GC/MS and represents one of the earliest examples of an interactive Chemical-MIME display on the Web. It used the MDL Chime plugin and required the user to be running Windows. Selecting a region of the chromatogram would download the GC and selecting a numbered box would download the MS for that constituent.
The GC in JCAMP-DX format can be viewed directly using this link.A more recent set of examples using a JCAMP-DX display of a simulated GC either with JSpecView vs 1 and JSpecView vs 2 and Jmol have been produced as well.
The constituents identified by 1..22 are:
|#||FEMA||Name||ChemSpider Ref.||Std. InChI-Key||MOL||JDX|
|17||β-selinene and α-||9031905||OZQAPQSEYFAMCY-QLFBSQMISA-N||MOL|
In pimento leaf extracts, the ratio of methyleugenol to eugenol is generally found to be 15:85.
Eugenol is also available from Oil of Cloves where the oil content is 10-13% and the eugenol component is generally between 70-90%.
Other spectra recorded and available in JCAMP-DX format for eugenol (from
pimento oil) include an
H NMR and
a C NMR.
An IR spectrum of neat pimento oil is available for comparison, again in JCAMP-DX file format.
Much of the historical information was obtained from:
"PIMENTO - A short economic history" by D.W. Rodriquez and published by the Agricultural Information Service, Jamaica 1969.
"Historic Jamaica from the Air", by David Buisseret, Ian Randle Publishers, Kingston, 1996.
Another useful source is "The Book of Spices" by F. Rosengarten, Jr. Livingston Publishing Co., Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, 1969.
Ministry of Agriculture and Lands article on JIS
Pimento - The Jamaican Allspice Story by John Gayle
Copyright © 1994-2019 by Robert John Lancashire, all rights reserved.Created and maintained by Prof. Robert J. Lancashire,