Cloves in our A-Z - Cooking Index
Cloves are the rich, brown, dried, unopened flower buds of Syzygium aromaticum, an evergreen tree in the myrtle family. The name comes from the French "clou" meaning nail.
Ground Cloves add spicy depth to gingerbread, cookies, applesauce, muffins, cakes, and other sweets. It's a secret ingredient in barbecue and cocktail sauces. Blend Ground Cloves with maple syrup and drizzle over cooked sweet potatos and winter squash. Add a few Whole Cloves to bean and split pea soups (remove before serving). Eugenol (clove oil) will collect and cake in the container when Cloves are stored in a warm place. If you choose to grind your own Cloves, do not use a grinder that has plastic parts. Clove oil can cloud some plastics. Much of the world crop is used in Indonesia for Clove cigarettes, called "kreteks".
Cloves are strong, pungent, and sweet.
Cloves are native to the Molucca Islands, now a part of Indonesia. Cloves have been used for thousands of years. One of the earliest references to them says that the Chinese, in order to approach the emperor, had to have a few Cloves in their mouths to sweeten the breath. Cloves were once very costly and played an important part in world history. Wars were fought in Europe and with native islanders to secure rights to the profitable Clove business. Natives in the Molucca Islands planted a Clove tree for each child born. They believed that the fate of the tree was linked to the fate of that child. In 1816, the Dutch set a fire to destroy Clove trees and raise prices. The natives revolted in a bloody battle which changed the climate and politics of the area forever. Cloves also come from Madagascar, Brazil, Panang, and Ceylon.
Cloves have been used for the topical treatment of toothache. Clove has also been used for the common cold, cough, and inflammation of the mouth or throat.