Cloves are the dried buds of a tree in the family Myrtaceae.
Cloves are mainly grown in India and Indonesia and can be used as a curry spice or as a medicine.
The spice is very strong and so cloves must be used sparingly in a curry (or any cooking). Some curry recipes call for cloves to be used in powder form but mostly whole cloves are added to a curry dish.
As well as being added separately to curry dishes, cloves are a basic ingredient of garama masala and are also a part of a lot of curry powders.
Cloves are also used as an additive in tea.
Cloves should be stored in airtight containers to retain the flavour – ground cloves will stay fresh for 6 months and whole cloves will last for a year when stored like this.
Cloves also have some medicinal uses. The essential oil is used in dentistry for pain relief, as a digestive aid and in aromatherapy. Herbalists use cloves to treat a variety of conditions including morning sickness, diarrhoea, impotence, vaginal discharge and multiple sclerosis. Cloves contain Eugenol which has anti-inflammatory applications. Cloves are also used to treat diabetes, headaches, asthma, stress, blood impurities, athlete’s foot and fungal infections. A very versatile spice indeed!
Cloves are also used in some cigarettes. This apparently started in Indonesia and has spread to other parts of the world. The initial thinking seemed to be that the medicinal powers of cloves would outweigh the bad effects of the cigarettes. This has obviously not been proved. In my opinion, it’s better not to smoke at all.
Cloves are toxic and should not be used in large quantities. Cloves should not be taken by people with colitis or gastric ulcers. Taking too many cloves can cause vomiting, nausea and kidney damage.