Like other spices, cloves are available throughout the year. They are 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.
Cloves are the unopened pink flower buds of the evergreen clove tree. The buds are picked by hand when they are pink and dried until they turn brown in colour. 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 flavour profile.
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 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.
Eugenol, the primary component of clove's volatile oils, functions as an anti-inflammatory substance. In animal studies, the addition of clove extract to diets already high in anti-inflammatory components (like cod liver oil, with its high omega-3 fatty acid content) brings significant added benefits, and in some studies, further reduces inflammatory symptoms by another 15-30%. Clove also contains a variety of flavonoids, including kaempferol and rhamnetin, which also contribute to clove's anti-inflammatory (and antioxidant) properties.
A Nutrient-Dense Spice
Like its fellow spices, clove's unique phytonutrient components are accompanied by an incredible variety of traditionally-recognized nutrients. Using our nutrient ranking system, we determined cloves to be an excellent source of manganese, a very good source of vitamin K and dietary fiber, and a good source of iron, magnesium, and calcium.
Tips for Preparing and Cooking
Tips for Cooking with Cloves
Since cloves have a very intense flavour, 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 flavours of the other ingredients.
The easiest way to grind whole cloves into a powder is to use a coffee grinder.
How to Enjoy
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 favourite stuffing recipe.
Cloves are an excellent source of manganese, vitamin K, dietary fiber, iron, magnesium, and calcium.