Botanical Name: Eugenia carryophyllata

Family: Myrtaceae

Hindi Name: Laung

The term 'clove' is derived 'from the French word 'clov' and the English word 'clout', both meaning nail.

The flower bud of the clove tree bears a distinctive likeness to a broad headed nail. The clove tree is endemic in the North Moluccas in Indonesia, and was of old cultivated on the islands of Ternate, Tidore, Bacan and the west coast of Halmahera.

The Dutch extended cultivation to several other islands in the Moluccas, but only after the end of the Dutch monopoly, clove trees were introduced to other countries.

The most important production area today is the island of Pemba, which together with Zanzibar forms one part of the state of Tanzania. The whole island of Pemba is covered with clove gardens, it is reported that the island can be smelled on any ship approaching it.

Trade between the clove island Ternate and China goes back at least, 2,500 years. In China, cloves were not only used for cooking but also for disodouration. Anyone having an audience with the emperor had to chew to prevent any undesired smell.

Arab traders brought cloves to Europe in the time of the Romans. They were very expensive. In India this crop is cultivated in the Nilgiris, Tenkasi hills, Kanyakumari, Kottayam and Quilon.

The clove tree grows to a medium height of about 12 metres with a straight trunk. It is a handsome evergreen bearing flower buds, which, in their unopened bud stage, are picked for commercial use. The fully grown, but unopened buds, are picked green and dried in the sun till they become dark brown. Each bud has a rather cylindrical expanding base topped by a plump ball like unopened petals or corolla, surrounded by the four-toothed calyx. If the bud is left unpicked, the flower develops after fertilisation into a fleshy, purplish or blackish fruit known as the 'Mother of Clove'.

Clove buds are hand plucked when the green fleshy receptacle starts turning red, for the oil content is the richest at this stage. The essential oil in doves is dominated by eugenol.

The fruit is about 2.5 cm wide and 1.25 cm wide before drying. The tree produces dusters of crimson flowers in the wild state, but never reaches this flowering state in cultivation. The bark of the tree is pale, yellowish grey, and smooth and slippery. The leaves are shiny on the Upper side and rather pale beneath. The leaves have a strong and aromatic taste.

Its compostion is as follows:

  • Protein: 6.3 %
  • Volatile oil: 13.2 %
  • Fat: 15.5 %
  • Fibre: 11.1 %
  • Carbohydrates: 57.7 %
  • Minerals: 5 %
  • Calcium: 0.7 %
  • Phosphorous: 0.11 %
  • Iron: 0.01 %
  • Sodium: 0.25 %
  • Potassium: 1.2 %
  • Vit B: 0.11mg/100g
  • Niacin: 1.5mg/100g
  • Vit C: 80.9 mg/100g
  • Vit A: 175 IU

It is amazing that cloves are not used in the cuisine of the Moluccas; actually, in the whole of Indonesia, they are not an important spice.

Nevertheless, Indonesians are the main consumers of cloves, using up nearly 50 percent of the world's production-not for cooking, but for smoking! Cigarettes flavoured with doves are extremely popular in Indonesia, and nearly every male there enjoys them.

Cloves are an ancient spice, and because of their exceptional aromatic strength, they have always been held in high esteem by cooks in Europe, northern African and the greater part of Asia.

Cloves are much loved by the Chinese. They play an important role in Sri Lankan cooking. They are extensively used in the Mughlai cuisine of northern India. They enjoy high popularity in the Middle East, many Arab countries and northern Africa. In all these countries, they are preferred for meat dishes.

In Ethiopia, coffee is often roasted together with some cloves in the so-called 'coffee ceremony'. In Europe, they are used for special types of sweets or sweet breads, and for stewed fruits. In France, cloves often go into long simmered meat stews or broths. In England, they are most popular in pickles.

Consequently, many spice mixtures contain cloves-in the Chinese five-spice powder, the Indian garam masala, the Arabic baharat the Moroccan ras el hanout the Tunisian galat dagga the Ethiopian berbere the French quatre epices, and the Mexican mole sauces

The taste of the famous Worcestershire sauce, an Indo-British contribution to international cuisine, is markedly dominated by clove aroma.

Clove is stimulating, carminative and aromatic. It is given as powder or an infusion for nausea, vomiting, flatulence, dyspepsia and languid indigestion. The volatile oil contains medicinal properties, and is a strong germicide, antiseptic and a local irritant. It is used as an expectorant to aid bronchial troubles. They increase blood circulation and augment nutrition in general. They stimulate the skin, salivary glands, kidneys, liver, and the mucous membrane of the bronchii.

Cloves prevent griping or spasmodic muscular contraction and expansion. They are good diuretics and promote urination, thus cleansing the urinary system. They help in obliterating any foul smell in the mouth when you keep a few cloves in the mouth. Chewing a few cloves with salt helps in stopping cough problems. A clove boiled in gingelly oil and use of this oil in the ear removes earache and discharge in the ear.

Clove oil is used extensively in perfumery industries, and by dentists to treat toothache and as an antiseptic. Apart from their use in baked goods, cakes, confectionery, chocolate, puddings, desserts, sweets, syrups, preserves, etc, they are also widely used in curries, gravies, pickles, ketchup, sauces and spice mixtures. It is an ingredient of many toothpastes and mouth washes. The oil is also used as a cleaning agent in histological work. It is used for the formation of artificial vanilla.

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