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Cloves

English Name:                                        Cloves

Hindi Name:                                        Laung

Sanskrit Name:                                        Anghri, lavanga

Latin Name:                                        Syzygium aromaticum

Plant Family:                                        Myrtaceae (myrtle family)

Region Grown:                                        t was commonly thought that Clove trees needed to be close to the sea, but inland production in India has shown that they will thrive elsewhere. They are happiest in a warm, humid climate, at altitudes ranging from sea level to 1000 metres.

Part of Plant Used:                                        Dried flower bud.

Plant Description:                                        A large evergreen tree that can reach 15 metres in height. The trunk splits into two boughs covered with a smooth grey bark. The whole tree is wonderfully aromatic. Trees begin to bear flowers in their 7th year, although it will take another ten years before peak production is reached. The trees will keep producing for another 70 or so years. Each tree can yield between Spice Board India has it 2kg to 18kg in bumper years.In India, the trees flower Sept-October at sea level, changing to December-February in the mountains. The flower is picked when it is full sized and turning pinky-red, but is not yet opened, and then dried in the sun on palm leaf mats. They need to be spread thinly, as in piles they will ferment and turn grayish white in appearance.Cloves like this are known as ‘kohker’ cloves and are often found in low quality batches. Drying will take around 4-7 days, and the cloves must be covered at night so that they do not reabsorb moisture from the air.A swift drying time is preferable for quality, and a properly dried clove will snap satisfyingly in two without bending. If they have been recently dried they should yield a small amount of oil when you squeeze them with your thumb nail.

Characteristics:                                        Cloves resemble small rust brown nails (approx. ¾ inch in length) with four points on the head. Known for the flavour they impart when used whole or ground in both sweet and savoury dishes as well as a variety of drinks – especially mulled wine. They are more widely highly prized in the east than the west, for both culinary and medicinal reasons. Cloves are a very common ingredient in Indian food, where they are a constituent part of many meat dishes. In the west they are more traditionally used in breads, pickles and stewed fruits.Ground cloves lose their flavour quickly, so whole ones tend to be preferred. They are extremely strong in taste and their flavour can dominate, so only a small amount needs to be used.They contain large amounts of eugenol, also in cinnamon, which accounts for much of this flavour. Clove oil can be extracted by steam distillation and is used in mouthwashes, toothpastes, aftershaves and perfumes. It will also be well known as a local anaesthetic to those who remember ‘that scene’ from the film Marathon Man. Cloves have further medicinal qualities expanded upon below.

Aroma:                                        One of the most pungent of all spices, they have a distinctive astringent, eucalyptus, menthol type, hot aroma.

History:                                        Cloves have one of the most distinguished histories of all spices. Indigenous to the spice isles, or Moluccas, of Indonesia, trade in them can be traced back 2500 years, most notably between Ternate, one of these isles, and China. They are mentioned in ancient literature of the Chinese Han period. Apparently, Chinese officials would chew on a clove to make their breath fragrant when talking to the emperor. Ternate’s wealth and dominance of the spice isles was mainly due to it being the world’s main source for cloves.Cloves were known to Europe as early as the fourth century and were in high demand by the 8th century. Many Venetians amassed vast fortunes due to them. During the European Middle Ages, cloves were both a preservative and flavouring, whilst in Britain during the same period, cloves were also used in the poultices used to treat sores resulting from the Bubonic Plague.The wealthy would stud their wild boar with them which is a tradition still followed today with joints of ham. Arab traders controlled the trade in Cloves until Portugal came across the spice isles in the 1500s and promptly set up camp, giving them a clove monopoly. The Dutch took over Ambon Island early in the next century and, from there, controlled the trade in cloves for nearly two hundred years. They destroyed clove production on all isles except Ternate and Ambon to protect their trade and keep prices high, to the point that it is thought that cloves literally became worth their weight in gold.People could pay with their lives for growing cloves outside of the designated areas. It took the French smuggling out some plants and seeds in 1772 and introducing them to the Indian Ocean islands and then later to the New World to finally break this monopoly. It wasn’t until the early 19th century that cloves were introduced to India by the East India Company.

Points of Interest:                                         “Clavus” in Latin means nail, although the word comes to us through the French “clou”. A large proportion of the world’s cloves go goes towards Indonesian “kretek” cigarettes.

Ayurvedic Properties:                                         Cloves cool all Doshas and have antiseptic, analgesic, antibacterial, antispasmodic, antifungal, antiviral, antiparasitic, anesthetic, carminative, digestive, expectorant, stimulant actions. Can aid weak or sluggish digestion, poor circulation, relieve flatulence, bloating, nausea, fungal conditions, congested lungs, laryngitis, coughs, fevers, low sex drives, morning sickness, intestinal worms, toothache, when applied externally - arthritic pain, headaches, and back pain.Energetics: Pungent, bitter, astringent

Precautions:                                                            Pure oil can irritate the skin and mucus membranes.

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