Cloves are the aromatic flower buds of a tree in the family Myrtaceae, Syzygium aromaticum. They are native to the Maluku Islands in Indonesia, and are commonly used as a spice. Cloves are commercially harvested primarily in Indonesia, India, Madagascar, Zanzibar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka—and the largest producer, Pemba Island, just off the coast of Tanzania.
The clove tree is an evergreen that grows up to 8–12 m tall, with large leaves and sanguine flowers grouped in terminal clusters. The flower buds initially have a pale hue, gradually turn green, then transition to a bright red when ready for harvest. Cloves are harvested at 1.5–2.0 cm long, and consist of a long calyx that terminates in four spreading sepals, and four unopened petals that form a small central ball.
Cloves are used in the cuisine of Asian, African, and the Near and Middle East, lending flavour to meats, curries, and marinades, as well as complement to fruit such as apples, pears, or rhubarb
In Mexican cuisine, cloves are best known as clavos de olor, and often accompany cumin and cinnamon.
About 85% of cloves’ powerful taste is imparted by the chemical eugenol, and the quantity of the spice required is typically relatively small. It pairs well with cinnamon, allspice, vanilla, red wine, and basil, as well as onion, citrus peel, star anise, or peppercorns.
Clove may be used as an ant repellant.
Traditional medicinal uses
Cloves are used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine, Chinese medicine, and western herbalism and dentistry where the essential oil is used as an anodyne (painkiller) for dental emergencies. Cloves are used as a carminative, to increase hydrochloric acid in the stomach and to improve peristalsis. Cloves are also said to be a natural anthelmintic. The essential oil is used in aromatherapy when stimulation and warming are needed, especially for digestive problems. Topical application over the stomach or abdomen are said to warm the digestive tract. Applied to a cavity in a decayed tooth, it also relieves toothache.
Cloves may be used internally as a tea and topically as an oil for hypotonic muscles, including for multiple sclerosis. This is also found in Tibetan medicine. Some recommend avoiding more than occasional use of cloves internally in the presence of pitta inflammation such as is found in acute flares of autoimmune diseases.
They can be used as to make a fragrant pomander when combined with an orange.