Organic Ground Cloves
Organic cloves are a spice with quite a few different uses. Throughout history, they have played an important role in both the spice, incense and perfume industry. These tiny, unopen buds of the clove tree are an enormous contributor to our food today, finding places in dishes that range from the sweetest to the most savory. Eugenia caryophyllus is their scientific name and they are from the family Myrtaceae.
They have an essential oil content of 5%-20% and the oil is yellowish green in color, which may darken with age. The main essential oil is eugenol, which is about 81% of the oil content. Eugenol gives cloves their antibacterial and antifungal properties
Cloves are also called kurnful in Arabic, ting hsiang in Mandarin, clou de girofle in French, nelke in German, lavang in Hindi, choji in Japanese, cravinho in Portuguese, gvozdika in Russian, and clavo in Spanish.
Spain and Portugal spent the majority of the 16th fighting over control of the clove industry, only to lose it entirely to the Dutch and the East India Trading company. The oldest clove tree in the world is named Afo. It is said to be 350-400 years old and it calls Moluccas, formerly known as the Spice Islands, in Eastern Indonesia home. In 1665, the East India Trading Company (EITC) ordered all clove trees outside of their ownership to be uprooted and burned, but somehow Afo survived. It most likely survived due to its remote position on the high slopes of the island, or because of someone sly protecting it from the flames. The general supply of cloves was also limited by the EITC, usually from 800 to 1,000 tons annually, to keep prices high; with the rest of the yield being burned or thrown into the waters surrounding the islands. Cloves were worth roughly their weight in gold during this period in the 17th and 18th centuries. The high price of importing them contributed to their worth, and this of course was manipulated by the EITC. At the end of the 18th century, the coveted spice was growing in other parts of the world due to a spicy hero the world needed. Thanks to Afo the industry was disrupted. A man named Pierre Poivre stole some seedlings from Afo in the 1770s and planted them in France and then eventually in Tanzania, where today much of the clove crop is harvested from. Farmers were able to grow these seedlings provided by Afo and the availability of cloves spread rapidly. They entered the market and were no longer monopolized by a single trading company. This effectively changed the way the East India Trading Company dealt with cloves. They were no longer a hot, high priced item and their value to the trading company decreased. Luckily Pierre Poivre, or Peter Pepper, was not given the death penalty for stealing the seedlings, despite that being the threat he faced for his theft. He did however lose his right arm to a stray cannon while he was part of a naval battle with the British. You win some, you lose some. Literally.
Everyone knows about the spice route or the Silk Road, but fewer are familiar with Incense Routes, which existed at the same time. Incense routes were protected by hidden watering holes or sleeping areas to guard the wares that traveled across them overnight. Some Nomadic cultures, like the Nabateans of Israel, were eventually able to save enough money and resources to settle down thanks to their trading on these roads. Cloves were a huge part of this trade because they were famous for their beautifully pungent scent. They were used in some of the most popular perfumes at the time.
It was said that ancient Chinese courtiers would eat or chew on the buds when addressing the emperor to keep their breath fresh and inoffensive to him. Early written records from the Han dynasty in China indicate that people would practice this to keep their breaths in check specifically for when royalty was around. Otherwise, it really didn't matter how offensive their mouth breeze was to others around them. Clove is also used in modern Chinese medicinal practices as an antiseptic and anesthetic. They are frequently utilized to ease indigestion and nausea.
During the middle ages, cities and areas with large populations were not the most pleasing places to smell. Herbs and spices, especially cloves, were carried around in pockets to ward off the horrible scents of urban life. Airborne diseases such as the plague were thought to be deterred by cloves as well. These pocket dwellers were usually held in round containers called pomanders. Today, we see the modern pomander as an orange with rows upon rows of cloves stabbed into it, with the citrus scent of the orange mingling ever so delicately with the zesty smell of the cloves. These are used decoratively as well as to provide some pleasant scent profiles to the home around holidays.
Cloves were part of the "thieves vinegar" that would protect grave robbers from disease in the 15th century. Thieves vinegar acted like a hand sanitizer and hindered the spread of infectious disease from corpses back to the living, not unlike how the pomanders were used.
They are used in an Indonesian cigarette called "kretek." The recognizable scent makes for the popularity of the cigarettes, which were outlawed in 2009 in the United States following the discovery that they contain much higher levels of tobacco, tar and nicotine than the average American cigarette. They were also considered to be too attractive to young people, who tend to fall for marketing ploys and enjoy the pleasant scent of the kreteks. The cloves provide a convenient scent cover, making it easy for the user to "forget" they are smoking an addictive substance and instead focus on the lovely smell emanating from the burning cloves. Even the name kretek is pleasant- it is the onomatopoeia of the sound cloves make when they crack while burning. These cigarettes are sometimes seen as artsy statement pieces when they are paired with coffee drinking at fashionable cafes. There is also a practice called "nyethe" which is the act of decorating the kreteks with milk and coffee grounds using toothpicks.
Cloves became popular in America right around the time that tea drinking was viewed as unpatriotic. The fragrant buds provided for a good traditional tea alternative and combined well with other spices and herbs for robust, interesting flavors.
Cloves are said to be indigenous to Moluccas, Indonesia. Clove trees flourish in tropical environments with lots of rain, but overwatering is avoided. They cannot tolerate winter temperatures, though frosts are okay on occasion. These trees also enjoy some shrouded coverage from the sun, much like black peppercorns. The soil should be rich, loamy, and full of organic matter. Good drainage is important to the roots.
A clove tree, which is evergreen, can begin flowering after about five years if grown in optimal conditions, but it is not until between the ages of 15 to 20 years that the flowers are of the highest quality offered by the tree. After 20, the quality and number of cloves will decrease over time. The trees can grow from 25 to about 40 feet and annually may produce up to 75 pounds of buds. The buds, or cloves, vary in length from a half to three quarters of an inch long. Trees can live to be 100 and produce flowers for as long as they can, with each tree varying.
The buds only appear twice a year, from July to November and then again from November to January. They are plucked from the tree just before flowering, when their base is slightly pink. Once dried, they are colored reddish to dark brown and have lost most of their weight. Harvesting is done carefully by hand as to not damage the branches. After the cloves are picked, they are left to dry in the sun and turned by hand to encourage the drying process. Today, Tanzania produces 80% of the world's cloves.
Buds are still picked the traditional way, by hand, despite modern farming technologies. This is because the branches of the trees can be damaged if not handled properly, and no machine can match human touch just yet.
The tree does have some natural enemies that come in the form of disease and pests. One of the most devastating diseases is bud shedding. This is when a sort of infection begins in the buds and leaves which causes them to turn brown and fall off the tree. This is a contagious disease that can wreck a whole farm or crop if not treated swiftly enough.
Depending on the time of year and availability the organic ground cloves we carry may be sourced from Madagascar, Indonesia, Sri Lanka or China.
Cloves should be used sparingly because they can easily overpower a dish. They are wonderful in both sweet and savory foods.
European countries often use cloves in pickling and mulling spices. The most popular and most familiar use for cloves in the United States comes with glazed ham. Adding cloves to Thanksgiving stuffing will enhance the flavor to out of this world proportions, and it is the signature flavor of Christmas mincemeat.
It is an important ingredient in Indian cuisine and it is especially poignant in Garam Masala. It is an addition to Peruvian purple corn pudding, also known as mazamorra morada. This savory dish looks more like a soup and is as deep in color as one would expect a purple food to be.
Clove is especially excellent for flavoring soups and sauces during the colder times of the year. Popular soups that utilize cloves are red lentil soup and pumpkin soup. If you're having the kind of night where you only want to open a jar of sauce from the store and throw it over some boiled spaghetti, add some clove to bring some homemade dimension to the flavor.
The traditional biscotti recipe can be converted into chai biscotti with the introduction of clove and cinnamon. Apple pies also benefit from the presence of this spice.
Clove tastes great with sweet, chocolatey, fruity, or even meaty notes. It adds a nice heat element to applesauce, chai tea, and ciders.
It pairs well with cinnamon, allspice, vanilla, onion, citrus peel, star anise, basil, or peppercorns. Really pairs well with oranges, carrots, apples, beets, and pumpkin.
It is essential in Chinese Five Spice.
This flavorful cup of tea has the added benefit of providing some important nutrients to the body. The essential oils of cloves are good sources of vitamins and minerals like manganese, iron and calcium, which are things people don't always get enough of. This makes clove tea a perfect companion to a good book, which just so happens to be another thing people don't always get enough of.
A simple recipe is to use one and a half cups of water, ¼ of a teaspoon of ground clove, a pinch of cinnamon, a teaspoon of tea leaves, and a teaspoon of sugar. Just put the water over medium heat and add the clove and cinnamon. Cover with a tight lid. After two minutes of boiling, lower the heat and add the tea leaves to the water. Turn off the heat after a minute, and then let the whole mixture stand and cool. Pour in a cup and add the sugar. You can also add milk if you'd like, as some people find this soothing. Stir with whole cinnamon sticks for some extra fancy flair and a little flavor boost.
Ground cloves offer a lot of convenience in cooking. They do lose their essential oils quickly when they are stored incorrectly, so it is important to keep ground cloves sealed in an air tight container away from heat or direct sunlight. Do not keep them near the stove or oven if you can help it.
Whole cloves should be stored similarly even though they retain more of their essential oils over time. When cooking with whole cloves, which we do offer a conventional version of, they should be removed from the dish before consuming. Even after cooking, they remain hard.
Cloves are one of the most pungent spices. They are peppery with a sweet heat that is reminiscent of allspice, but with a slightly more intense bite.
If looking to replace ground cloves with whole cloves, one clove is about equal to ¼ of a teaspoon of ground. As mentioned previously, whole cloves should be removed from dishes before consumption as they remain hard even after they have been cooked.
When looking for a suitable substitute for cloves, nutmeg does an excellent job. The flavor profile of nutmeg is warm, just like the cloves it is acting to replace. Nutmeg can replace ground cloves in a 1:1 ratio.
Mace is another great substitute, but it can become overpowering and should be added at the end of cooking to avoid it becoming too bitter.
Allspice can be used as a replacement, but it is not as suitable in sweeter recipes because of its peppery bite. Try allspice in place of clove in savory dishes, like gravies or meat stews.
If you are really in a tight pinch without any of these replacements, you could mix together some cardamom and cinnamon to create a similar flavor to cloves. The mixture should be half cardamom, half cinnamon to achieve that perfect flavor. This mixture can then be used as a 1:1 ratio replacement for cloves.
Serving Size1 tsp
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value*