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Clove is a kind of flower bud and belongs to the family of ‘Myrtaceae’. Clove usually looks like a nail that has irregular shape. It is grown on an evergreen tree that has pale colored buds initially and becomes green later. At the time of collection these flower buds are red in color. They are dried out to produce the aromatic spice called clove. Clove has many vernacular names. In Hindi language it is popularly known as ‘laung’ or ‘lavang’. Indonesians call it as ‘cengkeh’. In Vietnam, clove is popular as ‘dinhhuong’. Clove recipes basically use cloves as a spice or as a flavoring agent. Some of the main clove recipes include preparations such as garam masala, masala chai and biryani.

History of Clove

Maluku Islands or Spice Islands were the original birth place of cloves. It is also believed that Indonesia is the native place for clove. Before the beginning of the 1st century AD, clove has spread its roots to Europe and Middle Eastern countries. Clove is always regarded as a highly prized spice since the Roman Empire. The profitable trade of cloves was started by Arabs through Indian Ocean during middle age. Portuguese then took over this trade and brought cloves to European countries. However, the main harvest of clove is observed in countries like Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Indonesia.

Culinary Uses of Clove

Clove is one of the aromatic spices used in culinary world along with cumin, cinnamon and nutmeg. Its fragrance is used widely to make clove recipes around the world. It can be either used as a whole or in powder form. A special seasoning or mix prepared with cloves is ‘garam masala’. It has a highly strong flavor that is added to various Indian gravies as well as dry dishes. Clove dishes also include rice made with either vegetables or meats. The flavor of rice dishes get enhanced with the addition of cloves. Ground cloves are fondly used to make tea, which is called ‘masala chai’. It has the strong aroma of clove as well as some medicinal properties. Cumin, cinnamon and nutmeg are the best companions of clove when added to any clove recipes including stews, soups and broth. Clove is sparingly added to baked products such as biscuits, cakes, pancakes and pies. It is often mixed with cheese and cumin to make a flavored spread.

Popular Clove Recipes

• Speculaas – It is one of the most traditionally admired clove recipes in Netherlands. It is a kind of biscuit specially made at St. Nichola’s Eve.

• Hachee – It is a famous Dutch stew, made with meat and vegetables. Cloves are added to enhance the flavor of the stew.

• Masala chai – It is one of the most popular clove dishes in Indian cuisine. It includes cloves along with other such spices.

• Garam masala – It is a kind of mix made by grinding cloves, cumin, nutmeg, mace, cinnamon and cardamom. Various other spices are also added. It is a strongly flavored Indian seasoning used occasionally to give flavor to the dishes.

Cuisines Commonly Making Clove Dishes

Indian cuisine is highly famous for using cloves in its recipes. Well-known garam masala is the one ingredient that is an indispensable part of Indian cuisine. Both South Indian and North Indian cuisines fondly use cloves. Masala chai is also highly popular along with special clove recipes including rice dishes as well as meat and vegetable dishes. Mexican cuisine popularly includes cloves known as ‘clavos de olor’, in sweet and savory dishes in combination with cumin and cinnamon. Vietnamese rice noodles are often flavored with clove. Food culture in Netherlands is highly influenced by Indonesian cuisine; hence clove is a vital ingredient in Netherlands. Spreads, stews and soups are fondly flavored by adding cloves. Other European cuisines as well as American cuisine also use cloves in making several sweet and savory clove dishes.

Preferred Methods of Making Clove Dishes

• Baked – Clove is often added to baked products such as short crust biscuits, cakes and pies.

• Mixed – Clove powder is fondly mixed with various seasonings.

• Boiled – Masala chai and soups call for boiling of clove to obtain the real flavor.

• Stewed – Stews are also a popular addition to the list of clove recipes.

Nutritional Value of Cloves

Clove is a highly nutritional spice mainly known for its medicinal properties. Almost all essential nutrients are present in cloves that make it a widely used ingredient. It is best known as an Indian Ayurvedic medicinal component. Even in Chinese and herbal medicines also, clove has varied uses. Clove oil is used as an essential oil as a dental painkiller. Consumption of clove or clove recipes is good for better digestion. The warmth and heat provided by cloves is very helpful in aromatherapy.

Buying and Storing of Cloves

Cloves are mainly famous for its flavor and aroma; hence only aromatic cloves should be purchased. Ground clove powder is also a good product but not better than the whole cloves, thus always buy cloves in whole form to attain its real aroma. Test the clove by pressing it hard, if oil is released from the clove than it belongs to the good-quality spice. Also test by putting it in water, if it floats vertically, it is a good clove otherwise not worth buying. Cloves can be stored in a sealed container at a dry, cool place. Whole cloves remain fresh for at least 1 year, whereas grounded powder can be stored up to 6 months. They can also be kept in refrigerator for increased shelf-life.

Clove Trivia

Clove is popularly used to make cigarette in Indonesia, called Kretek cigarettes. It contains half tobacco mixed with ground clove powder.