Gourmet Food Source
Cloves are the dried flower buds of an evergreen tropical shrub (syzgium aromaticum) native to South East Asia though it probably originated in China where it can be traced back to 200BC. It was later introduced to Mauritius, Zanzibar and the West Indies with Zanzibar now being one of the major producers.
Incredibly aromatic, cloves are used in sweet preparations in the West and savoury ones in Asia. In North Africa they are used as part of a pickling spice for meats as well as flavouring tagines and fruit desserts. An important spice in the food of India they are a key ingredient in garam masala mixes whilst the English and French stud them into bay leaves and onions as a flavouring for white sauces.
The extracted oil contains a powerful antiseptic, which is commonly used in Dentistry to alleviate toothache and freshen the breath. Cloves are very strong and should be used sparingly in cooking; they can be left whole or ground quite easily into a powder. Ready ground cloves are available but the whole buds are superior and more versatile. Try them as part of a pickling spice mix or pressed into a joint of ham ready for baking.
As with all spices they benefit from being stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.
Content and picture © Miles Collins