Cloves are by far the most prominet of the spices known as "flower spices." Just before the buds flower, they turn pink, at which point they must be harvested immediately. One tree yields about a seven-pound harvest. The flavor of the clove is rich, sweet and sultry.
Cloves played a very important role in the early Dutch monopoly of the spice trade, when the Dutch occupied the Moluccas, or Spice Islands. This fragrant treasure was so precious that in the mid-1600s, anyone caught illegally planting or trading cloves was put to death. Eventually cloves were smuggled out of the Moluccas and grown in many tropical areas of low elevation and great rainfall and made more available world-wide.
The high percentage of eugenol will produce a numbing effect if you put a whole clove in your mouth! In fact, before modern anesthetics, dentists often prescribed that their patients with toothaches pack cloves around the infected area to numb the pain.
In France, an ingredient crucial to any stock is a whole onion studded with cloves. In the USA and Canada, they use whole cloves primarily to stud ham or pork roast. Ground cloves are used in desserts, cakes, pies, custards, and liqueurs.
In Indonesia, where cloves grow freely, great amounts of cloves are also imported for their use in Kretek cigarettes, which are a blend of tobacco and ground cloves. Indians love to chew on betel nuts flavored with cloves.
Cloves can also be used to make lovely, long-lasting scented pomander balls.
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