There are two distinct definitions for pimento. One is a variety of red pepper, much like a red bell pepper. The other is a spice that originated in Jamaica, also known as allspice. Although many people may think they are unfamiliar with one or both kinds of pimentos, the reality is that they may have consumed them through a variety of recipes without realizing it.
When most people think of a pimento, they think of the red chunk of pepper that is in the center of a green olive; however, pimentos go far beyond that in their use. When left whole, they are large, heart-shaped peppers with a bright red color. They can range anywhere from 3 to 4 inches (7.6 to 10.2 cm) in length and 2 to 3 inches (5.1 to 7.6 cm) in width. Depending on its variety, the pepper can be sweet or it can be spicy, but it is nearly always flavorful.
Because of their strong flavor, green olives are commonly stuffed with the sweet variety of pimentos. Originally, these peppers were cut into bite size pieces and squeezed into the olive by hand. Now, in most cases, they are pureed and then stuffed in with the aid of a machine, reducing the cost and making the olives more affordable.
There are many other uses for pimentos. They can be chopped and put into salads, or used as a flavorful addition to pasta dishes. One of the most beloved uses is in pimento cheese, a favorite in the Philippines and in the southern portion of the United States. Many people love the cheese spread on white bread, celery, crackers, baked potatoes, hot dogs, hamburgers, or grits.
One other favorite use of the pepper is in pickle and pimento loaf. It is a processed meat, similar to bologna, that contains pickles, and of course, pimentos. It is usually sliced and served like any deli meat. There are a few companies who make the loaf out of chicken instead of beef and pork.
Another entirely unrelated item is the Jamaican pimento, also known as allspice. It is comprised of two parts: the tree and the berries. The dried, unripe berries are commonly ground into a spice that tastes similar to cloves, pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg, all as a single spice. The tree is an evergreen that grows to be 19.6 to 49.2 feet (6 to 15 m) and is popular for the smoking and carving properties of its wood. Allspice is one of the major exports of Jamaica.