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Black pepper and allspice

Marianne Cannon

Marianne Cannon

November 22, 2012

I talk with herb and spice specialist Ian Hemphill about black pepper and allspice. Would you be surprised to learn that black pepper is one of the most used spices in the world and has been used in cooking for over 2000 years?

Black pepper growing [Photo: Steenbergs]

Pepper was mostly eaten by the wealthy in the past as it was so expensive and sought after.

Did you know that pepper gets its kick from the compound peperine?

Pepper loses its flavour and aroma through evaporation so it’s best to keep it in an airtight container.

Consider using whole peppercorns and grinding just before use to maintain flavour or and add near the end of cooking.

Ripening pepper [Photo: Steenbergs]


You can of course grow some Australian pepper trees. They have the botanic name starting with Tasmannia. Don’t confuse this with the exotic large tree called the peppercorn. That’s Schinus areira, and is a weed species in all states of Australia.

Let’s hear more from Ian about how you can grow pepper in tropical zones like northern Queensland.



Allspice [Photo: Elenadan]

I talk with Ian Hemphill about allspice. The name allspice is because the flavour makes you think that you’re tasting nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. Did you know that the fruit and leaf oil are also used in men’s toiletries? Ever heard of “Old Spice”, I used to buy that for my father for his birthday when I was going to school. Any men’s fragrance that contains the word ‘spice’ apparently has some allspice oil in it.

Pimenta dioica (allspice) trees

You can buy this tree online from a nursery in NSW called Daleys Fruit Tree Nursery that has just about every exotic tree around. Just remember it’s not drought or frost tolerant. They will also send you a mail order catalog for free if you ring or write to them.

Pimenta dioica (allspice) [Photo: CT Johansson]

Allspice is mainly grown in Jamaica and for some reason, no-one has be able to successfully grow it much as a plantation crop, anywhere else. That’s a pity because the bark and leaves are very aromatic.

So what is allspice exactly and why is it so difficult to grow? Let’s find out…


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Julie Thomson
11 years ago

V interesting post about pepper, Marianne.
Can you tell me what connection the pepperina tree has? We have a v strong peppery-smelling evergreen tree near our front door, that seems to reproduce itself from roots. It doesn’t flower or produce seed of any kind. We inherited it with the property 23 years ago and have kept and worked around it, as it is gives good shade from western sun, but unsure what it’s called.

11 years ago
Reply to  Julie Thomson

Hello Julie,
unfortunately your tree called Pepperina in Qld, and called Peppercorn in NSW, is in fact a weed species. Botanically it has no relation to the vine that produces peppercorns.
The fact that your tree doesn’t fruit or flower is a good thing. The flowers are only 2.5mm and very pale in colour. I’ve never noticed them myself, but apparently they can cause respiration problems.
The berries are toxic, and should never be eaten.
I have seen them growing on farms in western NSW, dotted here and there, and not being too much of a worry. So if it doesn’t cause you any problems and doesn’t fruit, then it’s not a worry. Hope that helps.

Julie Thomson
11 years ago

Thanks Marianne.A weed! Oh dear. Friends of ours opened a restaurant some years ago in Brisbane outside which were many of these trees, so they called the place Pepperinas. It seemed exotic at the time.. Funny to think they were celebrating a pest. Shall heed your warning about the pepperina seeds ans flowers. Actually, I think ours must throw some seeds, cos there are always little shoots coming up through the gravel in the courtyard it overhangs.


Van Trung Nguyen
Van Trung Nguyen
10 years ago

Can I grow Piper Nigrum in NSW (Sydney suburb? And where I can buy young plants?
Thank you very much.