Herb and Spice of the Week – Cloves

August 21, 2014 at 5:40 AM | Posted in Herb and Spice of the Week | 2 Comments
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Cloves

Cloves

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.

 

 
Uses
Cloves are used in the cuisine of Asian, African, and the Near and Middle East, lending flavor 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.

 

 

 

Nonculinary uses
The spice is used in a type of cigarette called kretek in Indonesia. They have been smoked throughout Europe, Asia, and the United States. In 2009, clove cigarettes (as well as fruit- and candy-flavored cigarettes) were outlawed in the US. Cigarettes containing clove are now classified as cigars when sold in the US.

Clove may be used as an ant repellant.

They can be used as to make a fragrant pomander when combined with an orange.

 

 

Dried cloves

Dried cloves

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.

In Chinese medicine, cloves or ding xiang are considered acrid, warm, and aromatic, entering the kidney, spleen and stomach meridians, and are notable in their ability to warm the middle, direct stomach qi downward, to treat hiccough and to fortify the kidney yang. Because the herb is so warming, it is contraindicated in any persons with fire symptoms and according to classical sources should not be used for anything except cold from yang deficiency. As such, it is used in formulas for impotence or clear vaginal discharge from yang deficiency, for morning sickness together with ginseng and patchouli, or for vomiting and diarrhea due to spleen and stomach coldness.

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.

 

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