This penetrating spice packs a punch, but must be handled with care.
The Roo Sisters

5 Sep 2013 - 1:11 PM  UPDATED 27 May 2015 - 4:03 PM


It’s fitting that the clove is named for its semblance to a small nail: this penetrating spice packs a punch, but must be handled with care!Cloves (from the Latin clavus or French clou, meaning nail) are the dried flower buds of evergreen tree Syzygium aromaticum, a myrtle native to the Indonesia’s Maluku (or Molucca) Islands, but now also grown in countries including Madagascar, Zanzibar, Brazil, India and Sri Lanka.

Like nutmeg, cloves were once only to be found in the Spice Islands and were a key reason for Dutch colonisation of Indonesia in the 1600s. Keen to keep prices high, the Dutch destroyed clove trees outside their control – earning them the hatred of the Maluku islanders, whose tradition was to plant a clove tree for every newborn. It was thought the wellbeing of the child was directly linked to the fate of the tree.

By the Middle Ages, cloves had become popular across then world for their ability to mask the taste of less-than-fresh foods. In China, as far back as 200BC, courtiers sucked on them to combat bad breath before an audience with the emperor.


Use cloves in ... 

meat dishes, marinades, as a garnish and in desserts.They feature in the spice blends garam masala, five spice and ras el hanout. Europeans love cloves with fruits such as apples, oranges or rhubarb, and they are a common sight at Christmas poked into the skin of a glazed ham.

Whenever possible, buy whole instead of ground cloves – the latter lose their flavour quickly. Grind as needed, and store in a sealed glass jar in a cool, dark place.


Cloves go with ...

red meat, ham, game, apples, pears, rhubarb, oranges, pumpkin, ginger, onion, tomatoes, dried fruit, nutmeg, cinnamon, star anise, vanilla, milk, red wine, tea.