Source: Cloves - Patricia G. Solley, 1997 (To go there: )
Originally from the "Spice Islands" of Southeast Asia, these dried, unopened buds of a Moluccan evergreen tree were traded into Europe even in Roman times. Beginning in the 18th century, plantations were established in Zanzibar, Madagascar, where they are produced to this day. Interestingly, they only flourish by the sea. When the buds are picked, they are pink. When dried, they carry the essential oil of eugenol, a powerful antiseptic with preservative action.
CLOVES - extracted from the pages of Gernot Katzer -
The clove tree is endemic in the North Moluccas (Indonesia) and was of old cultivated on the islands of Ternate, Tidore, Bacan and the West coast of Halmahera. The Dutch extended cultivation to several other islands in the Moluccas, but only after the end of the Dutch monopoly (18.th century), clove trees were introduced to other countries. Today, Zanzibar and Madagascar are the main producers, followed by Indonesia.
Cloves are an ancient spice and, because of their exceptional aromatic strength, have always been held in high esteem by cooks in Europe, Northern Africa the greater part of Asia.
Trade between the "clove island" Ternate and China goes back at least 2500 years. In China, cloves were not only used for cooking but also for desodoration; anyone having an audience with the emperor had to chew cloves to prevent any undesired smell. Arab traders brought cloves to Europe in the time of the Romans; they were very expensive.
When the Europeans, in the Age of Exploration, finally found the clove producing islands, they took enormous interest in securing a constant spice supply: On the small island of Ternate (9 km diameter), at least 10 fortresses of Portuguese, Spanish, English and Dutch origin can today be visited. During the 17th century, the Dutch kept an effective monopoly in the clove trade, which guaranteed high profits to them.
But Dutch heritage in today's Ternate is small, at least compared to the great Dutch influence still felt in the nutmeg producing Banda islands. Still there is an Islâmic sultan in Ternate in his great palace full of Chinese ceramics of all epochs; he still for tradition regularly gives sacrifices to Hindu deities and if the island volcano Gamalama (1700 m) becomes active, he still circumnavigates the island thrice with his magic canoe, as have done his ancestors in Hindu and even pre-Hindu days. Yet don't get lulled by this picture of idyllic backwardness - Ternate is an economically productive area, houses the administration authorities for the whole North Moluccas and its sultan takes part in Indonesian domestic and foreign policy. Furthermore, I have seen only few places in Indonesia where people show that much of regional patriotism.
It is amazing that cloves are not (or at least, very rarely and only for sweets) used in the cuisine of the Moluccas; actually, in whole Indonesia, they are not an important spice. Nonetheless, Indonesians are the main consumers of cloves and use up nearly 50% of the world's production. But, alas!, not for cooking but for smoking: Cigarettes aromatized with cloves (kretek) are extremely popular and nearly every (male) Indonesian enjoys them. Their sweet, incent-like aroma pervades Indonesian restaurants, busses, markets and offices.
It is impossible to mention all cuisines where cloves are used; they are much loved by the Chinese, play an important role in Sri Lankan cooking, are extensively used in the Moghul cuisine of Northern India, enjoy high popularity in the Middle East and many Arab countries and are a common spice in Northern Africa. In all these countries, they are preferred for meat dishes; frequently, rice is aromatized with a few cloves. Europeans seem to dislike their strong flavour and use them mostly for sweets, stewed fruits and bread; sometimes, rice is boiled together with one or two cloves. In England, cloves are popular in pickles.
Consequently, many spice mixtures contain cloves. They form an essential part in the Chinese five spice powder, frequently appear in curry powders, determine the character of the Moghul variant of garam masala and are a component of the Arabic baharat. Mixtures from Africa containing cloves are Moroccan ras el hanout, Tunisian gâlat dagga and Ethiopian berebere. A well-known European spice mixture depending on cloves is the French quatre épices. Lastly, cloves have also established themselves in México.
The taste of the famous Worcestershire sauce (also spelled Worcester), an Indo-British contribution to international cousin, is markedly dominated by clove aroma. The sauce is composed of several spices (besides cloves, garlic, tamarind, paprika or chiles are most frequently found), fish extract, soy sauce, treacle, vinegar (or lemon juice) and salt. There is no "authentic recipe", and therefore every vendor may sell his own creation. I use this product mostly for vegetables, but this may be a matter of personal taste; British cooks employ it also for meat and especially eggs.
Small, reddish-brown flower bud of the tropical evergreen tree Syzygium aromaticum (sometimes Eugenia caryophyllata) of the family Myrtaceae, important in the earliest spice trade and believed indigenous to the Moluccas, or Spice Islands, of Indonesia. The word "clove" comes from the French clou, meaning "nail."Strong of aroma and hot and pungent in taste, cloves are used to flavour many foods, particularly meats and bakery products; in Europe and the United States the spice is a characteristic flavouring in Christmas holiday fare, such as wassail and mincemeat.
The first references to cloves are found in Oriental literature of the Han period in China under the name "tongue spice." Courtiers were required to hold cloves in their mouths when addressing the emperor during the Han dynasty, 206 b.c. to a.d. 220. From the eighth century on, cloves became one of the major spices in European commerce. During the late Middle Ages, cloves were used in Europe to preserve, flavour, and garnish food. In the 18th century, seeds of the clove tree were stolen from the Dutch by French traders to break the Dutch monopoly in the spice trade. Clove cultivation was almost entirely confined to Indonesia, and in the early 17th century the Dutch eradicated cloves on all islands except Amboina and Ternate in order to create scarcity and sustain high prices. In the latter half of the 18th century the French smuggled cloves from the East Indies to Indian Ocean islands and the New World, breaking the Dutch monopoly.
The clove tree is an evergeen that grows to about 25 to 40 feet (8 to 12 m) in height. Its gland-dotted leaves are small, simple, and opposite. The clove tree is propagated by seed. After the seeds have been transplanted to fields, the first crop can be harvested when the trees are six to eight years old. At harvest, the unopened buds are removed from the trees by hand. Flowering begins about the fifth year; a tree may annually yield up to 75 pounds (34 kg) of dried buds. The buds are hand-picked in late summer and again in winter and are then sun-dried. The island of Zanzibar, which is part of Tanzania, is the world's largest producer of cloves. Madagascar and Indonesia are smaller producers.
Cloves vary in length from about 1/2 to 3/4 inch (13 to 19 mm). They contain 14 to 20 percent essential oil, the principal component of which is the aromatic oil eugenol. Cloves are strongly pungent owing to eugenol, which is extracted by distillation to yield oil of cloves. This oil is used to prepare microscopic slides for viewing and is also a local anesthetic for toothaches. Eugenol is used in germicides, perfumes, and mouthwashes, in the synthesis of vanillin, and as a sweetener or intensifier.
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