Cloves are one of the oldest and most popular spices in the world. The clove is a dried flower bud that is taken from the highly aromatic clove evergreen tree. The sweet-smelling clove bud comes whole or ground and has a variety of uses. Whole cloves are popular in cooking meats, pickling fruits and making syrups, while ground clove is used in baking, perfumes and for medicinal purposes. Both the taste and aroma of the spice are incredibly intense. The taste is pungent, strong and sweet with a bitter, astringent flavor that leaves a sensation in the mouth similar to that of nutmeg.
Cloves are an essential ingredient in many traditional American dishes including Easter hams, gingerbread and pumpkin pie. They are also used to flavor meats, salad dressings and other desserts and even provide important seasoning elements to ketchup and Worcestershire sauce. In the cuisines of Asian, African and Middle Eastern countries, cloves lend flavor to meats, curries and marinades. They are also used to give aromatic and flavor qualities to hot beverages and are a common element in spice blends such as pumpkin pie spice and speculoos spices.
Dating as far back as 200 B.C., cloves have been renowned for their health benefits, and have been used to treat illnesses and improve health. Cloves are known to relieve toothaches and gum disease, aid in digestion, boost the immune system, treat pain, relieve headaches, protect against liver infection and aid in the preservation of bone density.