Jamaican Pimento

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.

pimento blossom


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.

Some notable dates:
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 railroad built
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
1882 Strawberry plant imported,
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 started
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.

Chemistry of pimento

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%.

Jamaican stamp with pimento berries pimento berries


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.

GC/MS of pimento oil

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
1 2902 α-pinene 6402 GRWFGVWFFZKLTI-UHFFFAOYSA-N MOL MS
1 thujene 453920 GJYKUZUTZNTBEC-UHFFFAOYSA-N
2 2903 (+)-β-pinene 8466294 WTARULDDTDQWMU-RKDXNWHRSA-N PDB MS
2 2762 myrcene 28993 UAHWPYUMFXYFJY-UHFFFAOYSA-N PDB MS
3 2762 myrcene 28993 UAHWPYUMFXYFJY-UHFFFAOYSA-N PDB MS
4 2856 α-phellandrene 7180 OGLDWXZKYODSOB-UHFFFAOYSA-N PDB MS
5 α-terpinene 7182 YHQGMYUVUMAZJR-UHFFFAOYSA-N PDB
6 2633 R-(+)-limonene 389747 XMGQYMWWDOXHJM-JTQLQIEISA-N PDB MS
7 2465 1,8-cineole (eucalyptol) 2656 WEEGYLXZBRQIMU-UHFFFAOYSA-N PDB MS
8 3559 γ-terpinene 7181 YKFLAYDHMOASIY-UHFFFAOYSA-N PDB
9 2356 para-cymene 7183 HFPZCAJZSCWRBC-UHFFFAOYSA-N PDB MS
10 3046 terpinolene 10979 MOYAFQVGZZPNRA-UHFFFAOYSA-N MOL MS
11 2635 linalool 13849981 CDOSHBSSFJOMGT-UHFFFAOYSA-N MOL
12 β-elemene 8034794 OPFTUNCRGUEPRZ-ZNMIVQPWSA-N MOL
13 (E)-β-caryophyllene 4479685 NPNUFJAVOOONJE-WDZFZDKYSA-N PDB MS
14 alloaromadendrene 4476271 ITYNGVSTWVVPIC-GNKOZFRFSA-N MOL
15 3045 (-)-(4S)-α-terpineol 13850142 WUOACPNHFRMFPN-UHFFFAOYSA-N PDB MS
16 γ-muurolene 4937567 WRHGORWNJGOVQY-QLFBSQMISA-N MOL
17 β-selinene and α- 9031905 OZQAPQSEYFAMCY-QLFBSQMISA-N MOL
18 γ-cadinene 83342 WRHGORWNJGOVQY-RBSFLKMASA-N PDB MS
19 ar-curcumene 83185 VMYXUZSZMNBRCN-UHFFFAOYSA-N PDB
20 calamenene 4934454 PGTJIOWQJWHTJJ-STQMWFEESA-N MOL
21 2475 methyleugenol 10605849 AJDXXCWZGWECKS-UHFFFAOYSA-N PDB MS
22 2467 eugenol 13876103 RRAFCDWBNXTKKO-UHFFFAOYSA-N PDB MS

FEMA code = (Flavour and Extract Manufacturers' Association of the USA).

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%.


eugenol


An alternative display of the GC which when clicked will automatically display the molecular graphic and the Mass Spectrum of that component has been developed using JSpecView and Jmol.

Other spectra recorded and available in JCAMP-DX format for eugenol (from pimento oil) include an IR, H NMR and a C NMR.
An IR spectrum of neat pimento oil is available for comparison, again in JCAMP-DX file format.

References

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 and again


Return to links to the chemistry of other Jamaican items, including bauxite, coffee, spices and fruit and vegetables.

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Copyright © 1994-2014 by Robert John Lancashire, all rights reserved.

Created and maintained by Prof. Robert J. Lancashire,
The Department of Chemistry, University of the West Indies,
Mona Campus, Kingston 7, Jamaica.
Created November 1994. Links checked and/or last modified 12th November 2014.
URL http://wwwchem.uwimona.edu.jm/lectures/pimentoJS.html