Cloves are the aromatic dried flower buds of Syzygium aromaticum, a species in the family Myrtaceae. Cloves are native to Indonesia and are used as a spice in cuisines all over the world. Cloves are cultivated commercially in Indonesia, Madagascar, Zanzibar, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Cloves are known as Cengkih or cengkeh in Indonesia, bunga cengkih in Malaysia or Lavang in India.

Syzygium aromaticum is an evergreen tree, 8-12 m tall, with large square leaves and sanguine flowers in numerous groups of terminal clusters. The flowers buds are initially pale color, turns to green, and later develop into a bright red, when they are ready for harvesting. Cloves are ready for harvest when they are 1.5-2 cm long, bright red and consist of a long calyx, four spreading sepals and four unopened petals which form a small ball in the center.

Cloves have a strong smell and taste, and should be used sparingly. They are available in whole or in powdered form, used mostly in Indian and Asian cuisine. In Netherland, cloves are used in cheese, often in combination with cumin. They are an essential ingredient in making Dutch speculaas, and hachee stews.

Clove is used in kretek, a type of cigarette, in Indonesia. Kretek is smoked throughout Europe, Asia, and the United States. Clove cigarettes (as well as fruit and candy-flavored cigarettes) were outlawed in the US. However they are still sold under another form called 'Filtered clove cigars'.

Cloves are used in Chinese medicine, Indian Ayurvedic medicine and western herbalism and dentistry, where the essential oil is used as an anodyne (painkiller). In Chinese medicine, cloves or ding xiang are considered acrid, warm and aromatic.

Euganol, a clear and pale yellow oily liquid, comprises 72-90% of the essential oil extracted from cloves, the compound responsible for the cloves' aroma. Euganol has antiseptic and anaesthetic properties.

Young clovesYoung cloves
Author: Tinofrey (public domain)

Drying the clovesDrying the cloves
Author: Tinofrey (public domain)

Author: les (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic)

Cooked ham with clovesCooked ham with cloves
Author: AlbertCahalan (public domain)

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