Cloves - How To Use

(Also known as Nail spice due to its common translation in most languages and its shape)


Cloves are sweet, astringent, slightly acidic or bitter and camphorous, a sharp cooling pungent smell. The name clove originates from the French word for nails "Clou".

Whole cloves, the unopened, dried flower buds of a small, tropical evergreen indigenous to Indonesia, are probably better known in Western households as part of a fragrant Christmas ornament, an orange studded with cloves, or as a flavouring component of baked, glazed hams. Its ground form is one of the common spices in pumpkin pies and other sweet treats. Once again, in the rest of the world, cloves are used in savoury cooking such as meat dishes, rice, and stews. Some smokers might be familiar with the clove or kretek cigarettes of Indonesia, cloves and tobacco. Indonesia is the globe's largest producer of cloves. However, most of the harvest is grown for said cigarette industry. 


Cloves are an excellent source of manganese and vitamin K. Continual research suggest that it could boost the immune system and protect against oral and liver disease and aid against indigestion and inflammation. Toothpaste and mouthwash will often include cloves.

Interesting Facts

  • Three little Indonesian islands, "The Moluccas" today, known as Maluku, were once the renowned spice islands because of a trio of native spices, cloves, nutmeg and mace. They were cultivated there and undiscovered for almost 2000 years. History tells us that a French man, Pierre Poivre, stole the clove seedlings and brought them to the French island of Mauritius known as "Isle de France" back in the 18th Century and eventually into Zanzibar.
  • During the Hang dynasty, 206 BC - 220 BC, courtiers would use cloves to sweeten their breath when greeting the Chinese Emperor.  
  • The Romans used it as perfume and incense. Like most spice commodities, there is a long history of unrest in luxury trades between countries.
  • In the middle ages, cloves took off as a culinary spice in the West. The republic of Venice had a monopoly, but eventually, the Portuguese, Dutch, Spanish and British fought a series of wars where the Dutch eventually seized control of this luxury commodity. 
  • In the 17th and 18th century cloves were as valuable as gold because of their high importing costs. 

Chief Flavour Compound

Eugenol: (medicinal, woody and warming) colourless dull yellow fragrant oil-based liquid, also found in nutmeg, cinnamon, basil and bay leaf. Cloves have the highest eugenol of all the spices. The flavour profile compliments other warming spices such as allspice, liquorice, nutmeg, cinnamon and fenugreek.

Blends to try with Cloves

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