Like other spices, cloves are available throughout the year.
They're renowned for providing their uniquely warm, sweet and aromatic taste to ginger bread and pumpkin pie, but they can also make a wonderful addition to split pea and bean soups, baked beans and chili.
Cloves are the unopened pink flower buds of the evergreen clove tree.
The buds are picked by hand when they're pink and dried until they turn brown in color.
Cloves are about 1/2 inch long and 1/4 inch in diameter and with their tapered stem, they resemble tiny nails.
In fact, their English name is actually derived from the Latin word clavus, which means nail.
Although cloves have a very hard exterior, their flesh features an oily compound that is essential to their nutritional and flavor profile.
Clove-spice contains significant amounts of an active component called eugenol, which has made it the subject of numerous health studies, including studies on the prevention of toxicity from environmental pollutants like carbon tetrachloride, digestive tract cancers, and joint inflammation.
In the United States, eugenol extracts from clove have often been used in dentistry in conjunction with root canal therapy, temporary fillings, and general gum pain, since eugenol and other components of clove (including beta-caryophyllene) combine to make clove a mild anaesthetic as well as an anti-bacterial agent.
For these beneficial effects, you'll also find clove oil in some over-the-counter sore throat sprays and mouth washes.
A Nutrient-Dense Spice
Like its fellow spices, clove's unique phytonutrient components are accompanied by an incredible variety of traditionally recognized nutrients.
We've determined clove-spice to be an excellent source of manganese, a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin-C and omega-3 fatty acids and a good source of calcium and magnesium.
Cloves are native to the Moluccas, formerly known as the Spice Islands of Indonesia.
They've been consumed in Asia for more than 2,000 years.
Owing to their sweet and fragrant taste, Chinese courtiers dating back to 200 BC would keep them in their mouths in order to freshen their breath when addressing the emperor so as to not offend him.
Arab traders brought clove-spice to Europe around the 4th century, although they didn't come into widespread use until the Middle Ages when they became prized for their pungent flavor that served to mask the taste of poorly preserved foods.
While for a long time, they were cultivated almost exclusively in Indonesia, today the leading clove-producing region is Zanzibar in Eastern Africa.
In addition to these two regions, cloves are also grown commercially in the West Indies, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, India, Pemba and Brazil.
How to Choose and Store
Whenever possible, buy whole cloves instead of clove powder since the latter loses its flavor more quickly.
When squeezed with a fingernail, good quality cloves will release some of their oil.
Alternatively, you can place clove-spice in a cup of water.
Those of good quality will float vertically while those that are stale will either sink or float horizontally.
Clove-spice should be kept in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark and dry place.
Ground cloves will keep for about six months, while whole cloves will stay fresh for about one year stored this way.
Alternatively, you can extend their shelf life by storing them in the refrigerator.
Tips for Cooking with Clove-spice
Since cloves have a very intense flavor, especially those that have been ground, care should be taken when deciding how much to use in a recipe so as to not overpower the flavors of the other ingredients.
The easiest way to grind whole cloves into a powder is to use a coffee grinder.
A Few Quick Serving Ideas:
Pierce an onion with whole cloves and add to soups, broths or poaching liquids.
Adding ground cloves and curry powder to healthy sautéed onions, garlic and tofu will give this dish an Indian-inspired zest.
Impart a warming note to apple cider by adding ground cloves and cinnamon.
Spice up fruit compote by adding ground cloves.
Add clove powder, walnuts and raisins to your favorite Thanksgiving stuffing recipe.
Cloves are not a commonly allergenic food and are not known to contain measurable amounts of goitrogens, oxalates, or purines.
Clove essential oil is antibacterial, antifungal, as well as being antihistamine.
It can help eliminate gas and indigestion, clear mucous from the lungs, and is even said to expel intestinal worms.
Use clove essential oil as an antiseptic and pain-reliever when suffering from toothaches, flu, colds, and/or bronchial congestion.
When used in a liniment, clove essential oil could help you relieve the pain associated with sore muscles and arthritis.
Clove-spice is an excellent source of manganese.
They're also a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin-C, vitamin-K, and omega-3 fatty acids and a good source of magnesium and calcium.
And, if you're wondering what to prepare for dinner this evening;
Spicy Chicken in a Bowl
Try this meal-in-one dish.
The unique use of spices in the broth combined with the chicken gives you a great combination of flavors.
Prep and Cook Time: 30 minutes
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut in 2 inch pieces (6oz each)
4 c. chicken broth
1/2 inch sliced fresh ginger, or ½ tsp dried
6 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
5 star anise
1/2 tsp. dried fennel seeds
1 medium sized onion chopped in big pieces
3 cloves garlic chopped in big pieces
6 whole, medium dried, shiitake mushrooms
1 lb. green beans, ends cut off
1/2 c. minced scallion
Chop onion and garlic and let sit for 5 minutes to bring out their hidden health-promoting benefits.
Sauté onion in a medium saucepan over medium low heat for about 5 minutes stirring frequently.
Add garlic and continue to sauté for another minute.
Add chicken broth, ginger, cloves, cinnamon stick, star anise, fennel seeds, and shiitake mushrooms.
Turn heat to medium high and simmer for 15 minutes.
While broth is simmering cut ends off beans and cut in 1 inch pieces.
Strain broth mixture (saving shiitake mushrooms)and put liquid back in pan.
Bring to a boil and simmer on high heat with chicken pieces and green beans.
You may need to skim the surface a little while chicken pieces are cooking.
Slice Shiitake mushrooms and add to chicken and broth.
Add scallion, salt and pepper to taste.
Makes 4 ServingsTweet
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