What are Cloves?
The word ‘clove’ is from the Latin word for ‘nail’ – clavus. Cloves are native to the North Moluccas, the Spice Islands of Indonesia. It is cultivated in Brazil, the West Indies, Mauritius, Madagascar, India, Sri Lanka, Zanzibar and Pemba. The Chinese wrote of cloves as early as 400 BC. and there is a record from 200 BC of courtiers keeping cloves in their mouths to avoid offending the emperor while addressing him. Arab traders delivered cloves to the Romans. Cloves are the immature unopened flower buds of a tropical tree. When fresh, they are pink, dried, they turn to a rust-brown colour. Measuring 12-16 mm (1/2”-5/8”) long, they resemble small nails, with a tapered stem. The large end of the clove is the four-pointed flower bud. Bouquet: Warm, pungent and aromatic
Flavour: Sweetly pungent, astringent and strongly aromatic.
Hotness Scale: 5
Cooking with Cloves
Cloves can easily overpower a dish, particularly when ground, so only a few need be used. Whole cloves are often used to “stud” hams and pork, pushing the tapered end into the meat like a nail. A studded onion is frequently used to impart an elusive character to courts-bouillons, stocks and soups. Cloves are often used to enhance the flavour of game, especially venison, wild boar and hare. They are used in a number of spice mixtures including ras el hanout, curry powders, mulling spices and pickling spices. Cloves also figure in the flavour of Worcestershire sauce. They enjoy much popularity in North Africa and the Middle East where they are generally used for meat dishes, though rice is often aromatized with a few cloves.
Preparation and Storage
Cloves are best bought whole. As a powder flavour quickly deteriorates. Being extremely hard, it is difficult to grind cloves with a mortar and pestle so an electric grinder such as a coffee grinder is recommended. Store in an airtight container out of direct light.
Health Benefits of Cloves and Clove Oil
Folklore says that sucking on two whole Cloves without chewing or swallowing them helps to curb the desire for alcohol. Traditional Chinese physicians have long used cloves to treat indigestion, diarrhea, hernia, and ringworm, as well as athlete’s foot and other fungal infections. India’s traditional Ayurvedic healers have used Cloves since ancient times to treat respiratory and digestive ailments. The medieval German herbalists used cloves as part of anti-gout mixture. Early American Eclectic physicians used cloves to treat digestive complaints, and they added it to bitter herbal medicines to make them more palatable. They were also the first to extract clove oil from the herbal buds, which they used on the gums to relieve toothache. A few drops of the oil in water will stop vomiting, and an infusion will relieve nausea. Essential oil of clove is effective against strep, staph and pneumomocci bacterias. Contemporary herbalists recommend cloves for digestive complaints and its oil for toothache. The primary chemical constituents include eugenol, caryophyllene, and tannins.Cloves are said to have a positive effect on stomach ulcers, vomiting, flatulence, and to stimulate the digestive system. It has powerful local antiseptic and mild anesthetic actions.
Japanese researchers have discovered that like many spices, clove contains antioxidants. Antioxidants help prevent the cell damage that scientists believe eventually causes cancer. On the other hand, in laboratory tests, the chemical eugenol, has been found to be a weak tumor promoter, making clove one of many healing herbs with both pro- and anti-cancer effects. At this point, scientists aren’t sure which way the balance tilts. Until they are, anyone with a history of cancer should not use medicinal amounts of clove. For otherwise healthy non-pregnant, non-nursing adults, powdered clove is considered nontoxic. Additionally, dentists have used clove oil as an oral anesthetic. They also used it to disinfect root canals. Clove oil still is an active ingredient in several mouthwash products and a number of over-the-counter toothache pain-relief preparations. Cloves kill intestinal parasites and exhibits broad anti-microbial properties against fungi and bacteria, thus supporting its traditional use as a treatment for diarrhea, intestinal worms, and other digestive ailments. Like many culinary spices, Cloves helps relax the smooth muscle lining of the digestive tract. And finally, eating cloves is said to be aphrodisiac.
Plant Description and Cultivation
A conical tropical evergreen myrtaceous tree reaching heights of up to 14m (45 ft). The bark is gray, the leaves are a shiny dark green, elliptical in shape and very fragrant. Small crimson flowers grow in triple clusters at the ends of branches. The fruit is a purple drupe, about 2.5 cm (1”) long. Cloves grow in the tropics and best near the sea. Rainfall must be at least sixty inches per year and a dry season is needed for harvesting and curing. The clove clusters are picked by hand before the buds open and dried on palm mats.
French: clou de girofle
Italian: chiodo di garofano
Spanish: clavo de especia
Chinese: ding heung
Indian: lao(o)ng, laung lavang, lavungam
Thai: gahn plu
Eugenia caryophyllus syn: E. caryophyllata, E . aromatica, Caryophyllus aromaticus, Syzgium aromaticum Fam: Myrtaceae
Recipes using Cloves
Clove is quite prominent in Vindaloo