An evergreen tree, 20 m (65 ft.) in height, it has soft, grey bark and dark-green, ovate leaves, with a shiny, leathery texture. At Whole cloves the beginning of the rainy season fragrant, green buds (cloves) appears at the ends of the branches. They gradually turn red and, if left unpicked, develop into pink or crimson flowers.
History and traditions
The medicinal use of cloves is first mentioned in ancient Chinese texts, and it was a custom during the Han dynasty (266 BC-AD 220) to keep a close in the mouth when addressing the emperor. Cloves originally came from the Moluccas Islands, a group of islands in Indonesia, and were brought to the Mediterranean by Persian and Arab traders. They are mentioned in the writings of Pliny under the name caryophyllon, and were widely used in Europe by the 4th century, when their strong fragrance made them popular as ingredients of pomanders and as prevention against plague and infection. During the 17th century there was rivalry between the Dutch and the Portuguese over establishing a trading by seed or cuttings. The cloves (the unopened flower buds) are harvested when the tree is 6-8 years old. The crop can be sporadic: one year heavy and the next light. Cloves are usually handpicked to avoid damage to the branches which would jeopardize subsequent crops.
Unripe flower buds sun-dried: essential oil.
Cloves have digestive properties, help relieve nausea, control vomiting and prevent intestinal worms and parasites. Oil of cloves is still used as a dental antiseptic and analgesic. A cotton bud soaked in oil of cloves and applied directly to the tooth will ease toothache.
Widely used as a spice in whole or ground form to add flavor to curries, pickles, preserves, chutneys and meat dishes especially baked ham. It is also used in baked apples and apple pie, desserts and cakes, and for making mulled wine.
Added whole or ground to pot-pourri and used to make pomanders. Essential oil is used in perfumery, and added to tooth-pastes, mouthwashes and gargles. Monopoly in this valuable spice. But by 1770 the French were growing their own crops in Mauritius and they were subsequently cultivated in Guiana, Brazil, the West Indies and Zanzibar. The name cloves come from the French word for nail, clou, which they are supposed to resemble.