Cloves (Clavo) are the aromatic dried flower buds of a tree in the family Myrtaceae. The Clove Tree is an evergreen that grows to a height ranging from 8–12m. It has large leaves and sanguine flowers in numerous groups of terminal clusters. The flower buds are at first pale in colour, gradually become green, after which they develop into a bright red when they are ready for collecting.
Cloves are harvested when they are1.5–2cm long and consist of a long calyx, terminating in four spreading sepals and four unopened petals which form a small ball in the centre. They are harvested primarily in Indonesia, India, Madagascar, Zanzibar, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka and are used as a spice in cuisines all over the world.
Cloves are often used in Asian, African, and Middle Eastern cooking, adding flavour to meats, curries, and meat marinades. They are also used to create sweet dishes, added to fruits like apples, pears, or rhubarb. In Mexican cuisine, Cloves are best known as clavos de olor, and often used together with cumin and cinnamon.
Considered a very strong spice due to the eugenol chemical that makes up most of the Clove’s taste (85%), the quantity of Clove used in recipes is usually small. It pairs well with cinnamon, allspice, vanilla, red wine and basil, as well as with uncommon combinations like onion, citrus peel, star anise or peppercorns.
Cloves have a numbing effect on mouth tissues and are used in a type of cigarette called kretek in Indonesia. Kreteks have been smoked throughout Europe, Asia and the United States, but in 2009, Clove Cigarettes (as well as fruit and candy flavoured cigarettes) were outlawed in the US. Cigarettes containing Clove are now classified as Cigars when sold in the US.
Cloves also work as an ant repellent and they can be used to make a fragrant pomander when combined with an orange.
Cloves are used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine, Chinese medicine and western herbal treatment and dentistry, where the essential oil is used as a painkiller for dental emergencies. They are used as a carminative, to increase hydrochloric acid in the stomach and to improve peristalsis. The Essential Clove Oil is used in aromatherapy when stimulation and warming are needed, especially for digestive problems. Topical application of Essential Clove Oil over the stomach or abdomen are said to warm the digestive tract.
In Chinese medicine Cloves are considered acrid, warm and aromatic, entering the kidney, spleen and stomach meridians and are notable in their ability to warm the middle body and to treat hiccoughs. Because the herb is so warming it is said to be used in formulas for impotence, morning sickness together with ginseng and patchouli, or for vomiting and diarrhoea.