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Cloves are a rich, aromatic East African spice, are used whole or ground to flavor sweet and savory recipes. One of the most fascinating ingredients used in daily cooking in many parts of the world is the clove. It is a unique looking ingredient, which is dark brown or black, and has a characteristic taste and smell as well. Cloves are used for a variety of purposes, and it is an ancient spice as well as remedy. Even ancient people have used this ingredient as a spice and for treatment. Indeed, as a treatment, it is also used today to deal with tooth and gum pains. In fact, there are even chewing gums and toothpastes that are made with cloves.
The main part of the clove plant is its bud. Clove oil is extracted from these buds, but it can also be extracted from its leaves. However, it is the clove buds that are used for cooking purposes and not the leaves.
The clove comes from the Myrtaceae (myrtle family). It is a distinctive species that has a pleasant smell. The clove on its own has quite a strong aroma. When you taste it, it has a burning flavor. The reason for the strong smell and taste is its contents. Essentially, its oil is the chief content. Up to 15% of the clove content may be oil, and of this quantity, eugenol makes up 70 to 85%, eugenol acetate makes up 15%, and β-caryophyllene makes up another 5 to 12%. This comes to around 99% of the oil, while another 1 or 2% is made up by triterpene oleanolic acid. The clove has been known by different names in other languages. In Spanish it is called clavo, in Catalan it is called clau, in Portuguese it is called cravinho, and in Tagalog it is called clovas. These names are thought to have been derived from the Latin name clavus, which means “nail” due its shape resembling a nail. It is thought that this name made its way into English through Old French with the name clou. In addition to this, it is thought that the name clove is related to the verb cleave that refers to what use you may have for a nail.
The clove has been an ancient spice popular in Europe, Northern Africa and Asia. Trade between China and the “clove island” Ternate dates back 2500 years. The ancient Chinese used cloves for deodorization. Arab traders are known to have brought cloves with them to Europe when the Roman Empire was in control. At that time, however, cloves were very expensive.