Clove Spice Is Aromatic and Anesthetic
Cloves are the aromatic flower buds of the tree known botanically as Syzygium aromaticum, which is synonymous with Eugenia aromaticum or Eugenia caryophyllata, in the Myrtaceae family. This tropical evergreen tree is native to the Moluccas Islands, or Spice بونسای میخک هندی – بونسای میخک Islands, of Indonesia. It may attain a height of 50 feet and it’s propagated by seeds planted in the shade. Trees will start flowering after the fifth year. Most of the world’s supply comes from Zanzibar, Madagascar and Brazil.
Terminal flower clusters start out with a pale color that turns to green at first then bright red as the flowers form. Cloves are harvested just before the flowers mature so that the four flower petals don’t open and instead stay in little ball shapes. Some think that cloves look like little nails, so the head of the nail would be the ball of flower petals surrounded by four sepals. Cloves are harvested by hand-picking in late summer and again in winter. A single tree may yield up to 75 pounds of dried flower buds. The dried cloves are a dark reddish-brown color and they vary in size from ½ to ¾ inch long.
Cloves were used in the Middle Ages to preserve, flavor and garnish foods. Today, cloves are used in cooking in whole or ground form. Cloves have a very strong aroma so a little goes a long way in any recipe. Some types of foods that we use cloves in include cakes, cookies, biscuits, chutneys, desserts, dressings, fruit dishes, meat dishes and pickles. Baked goods and meats are the dishes more likely to contain cloves. Christmas foods, like wassail, gingerbread and mincemeat, are certain to use cloves. Fruits are pierced with whole cloves in decorative patterns to create “pomander balls” which are hung about at holiday time in Europe. Pomander balls are colorful, fun decorations and they make the room smell nice.
Essential oils make up 14-20% of the weight of dried cloves, which indicates the aromatic quality of cloves is very strong. A large percentage of the essential oil content, 72-90%, is eugenol. Eugenol has strong antiseptic and anesthetic properties so it’s no surprise that it’s used as a painkiller in dentistry. Early civilizations had this figured out as cloves were used to deaden toothaches. Sucking on a clove held over an aching tooth will clean the area and relieve the pain. A home remedy is to boil several cloves in water that can then be used as an antiseptic mouthwash and gargle to freshen the breath and relieve an infected and sore throat. Clove oil is extracted from the clove stems and used in germicides, perfumes and mouthwashes. Clove oil is an ingredient in the synthesis of vanillin.