What is a Clove?
Cloves are a species of tropical evergreen tree indigenous to South East Asia and Indonesia, which are most commonly grown and harvested for their flavorful and aromatic flower buds. The clove tree can grow to over 30 feet tall, its bark is smooth, and its leaves are glossy and green.
Cloves are widely used in cooking and baking, in various medicinal applications, and even in ceremonies and rituals around the world. Their distinct flavor is the result of oil compounds, mainly a type of essential oil called eugenol. In cooking, cloves are used either whole or ground, and are used to flavor savory and sweet dishes alike.
In addition to culinary uses, cloves also have multiple health benefits. Cloves contain several powerful compounds, including Vitamin A, Vitamin C, magnesium, dietary fibre, and several others. This combination of compounds make cloves an effective natural remedy for a variety of ailments, including digestive problems, toothache and pain relief, arthritis, headaches, and even flu and colds.
Due to their high antioxidant content, cloves can also be used to fight off free radicals, reduce inflammation, and improve cognitive healthand mental performance. Some evidence suggests that cloves may also help reduce cancer-causing toxins in tobacco smoke, as well as bacteria and viruses, making them a potentially useful tool in fighting off illness and disease.
Cloves have also been used medicinally around the world for centuries. In India, for example, the aromatic qualities of cloves have long been used to soothe congestion and other respiratory issues. In China, cloves are believed to have qualities which help improve circulation and reduce fever. In ancient times, cloves were also used to treat epilepsy and ease teethaches.
In many countries, cloves are also used as a symbol of love, friendship, success, and prosperity. Cloves are thought to bring good luck and are often exchanged between families during special occasions. Clovers are also the official national flower of Indonesia where they are considered sacred by many locals.
The distinctive flavor of cloves makes them popular in many dishes. As a whole, they are often used in curries, marinades, pickles, and glazes, while ground cloves are frequently included in spiced cakes, pies, and breads. Cloves are also a key ingredient in certain spiced alcoholic beverages, like sangria and mulled wine, as well as traditional tea recipes.
In the United States and Europe, cloves are most commonly used in baked goods. Whole cloves are used to stud hams and other meats before roasting, while ground cloves are often used in pumpkin pies, gingerbread, and other desserts.
Cloves may be bought either whole or ground in nearly any grocery store or health food store. When buying cloves, make sure to inspect them for signs of moisture, mold or bugs - all good indications that the cloves may not be of the best quality. If buying ground cloves, always check the expiration date as the flavor will change over time.
Cloves are an extremely versatile spice, making them a must-have ingredient in the kitchen. Their complex flavor and health benefits make them a valuable addition to any recipe, whether it's savory or sweet. With a little bit of knowledge and experimentation, you can easily make all sorts of dishes with cloves.