Many know cloves only as a flower; I certainly would have, had it not been for the dentistry history of my family. You see, my grandfather was a traditional dentist back in the 1940s in Iran (meaning his dentistry knowledge was acquired not through university education, but by experiment and experience).  Apparently, he used to use the dried flower buds of the clove tree (simply called clove) as an effective anti-inflammatory and anti-aesthetic substance.

Till my adulthood, I had no idea that the clove was mainly known and used as a spice in Asian cuisine. In fact, for many years the clove’s intense flavor reminded me of nothing but those nasty toothaches surfacing in the middle of the night when my mother, benefiting from his father’s dentistry tools and knowledge stuck a clove bud in the toot as a temporary relief.

Many years later, I learned that clove is native to Indonesia and has been consumed in Asia, far and Middle East and Africa for over 2000 years.  The buds are picked by hand when they are fresh and pink, and then dried and sued as whole or grounded.

Nutritional value and health benefits

Clove is known to be a good source of manganese, vitamin K and dietary fiber, iron, magnesium, and calcium. See a full nutritional profile here

According to “The world’s healthiest foods”, “Clove 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 … For these beneficial effects, you’ll also find clove oil in some over-the-counter sore throat sprays and mouth washes.”

Where to but how to choose

You could buy ground or whole clove from local spice markets and ethnic stores and even major supermarkets.  I receive mine from medicinal herbs store (called “ataari”) in Iran, ensuring a superb quality!  Whole cloves are preferable over ground cloves because as such they maintain their aroma and flavor longer. You could use grounder though if a certain recipe requires ground clove.

This is my new discovery about how to tell good clove from stale ones:  Place a clove in a cup of water. If it is a good quality, it should float vertically; if stale, it will either sink or float horizontally. Also, good quality clove releases some of its oil when squeezed with a fingernail.

Clove in the kitchen

Clove is strongly aromatic and has a sweet and warm taste which makes it an ideal ingredient in a wide verity of drinks, sweets and foods around the world.  The two general rules about cloves culinary use are 1) moderation in quantity 2) in combination with at least a couple of more spices.  In my experience, clove goes extremely well with cumin and cinnamon as is customary in Mexican Cuisine.

I already have two recipes for cloves in a drink here,  and in an Indian food here.

Search for other clove contained recipes if you will, and share here the ones you have already tried and liked.

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