Cloves

By EAT SMARTER
Updated on 23. Apr. 2020
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​While cloves might be associated with autumnal dishes, this distinctive spice adds dimension and delicate flavor to an array of sweet and savory dishes no matter the season.

cloves

Cloves…

  • ...contain essential oils. The clove owes its spicy and intensive aroma and its effect as a natural remedy to its high content of essential oil with up to 95 percent eugenol.
  • ...can help soothe a toothache. Bite on a clove to relieve toothache - this advice actually helps: the eugenol in clove has a slightly local anaesthetic and thus pain-relieving effect.
  • ...help with stomach aches. The ingredients of cloves have a calming and relaxing effect in cases of a feeling of fullness, flatulence, an irritated stomach or cramps.
  • ...may reduce muscle aches. Cloves or cloves oil (from the pharmacy) can also be used externally, for example to relieve muscle pain or tension.
  • ...inhibit inflammation. Various studies show that clove or the eugenol it contains has a strong effect against inflammation. For example, mouthwashes containing cloves or cloves oil help with inflamed gums or inflammation of the teeth.
  • ...can help prevent infections. Especially in summer or when on holiday in hot countries, seasoning with cloves is not only worthwhile from a culinary point of view. Because numerous studies have proven: Cloves effectively keep such dangerous pathogens as salmonella or staphylococci in check, thus preventing serious food infections.
  • ...can protect your cells. Spanish scientists ranked clove first in a study of the most effective antioxidants. During their research, they found that the high phenol content of the clove makes it the perfect protection for body cells against free radicals.
  • ...can be harmful to pregnant women. Expectant mothers are better off without dishes or products made from clove because the eugenol it contains could trigger premature labor.

What You Should Know About Cloves

The name is not always the same: in the case of carnations (quite correctly they are called cloves), for example, it is misleading: neither do carnations have anything to do with the flowers of the same name, nor are they themselves actually flowers, even though they could basically develop into flowers. This is because cloves are the buds of the evergreen clove tree, but they are almost always harvested when they are still firmly closed.

In appearance, the brown cloves, which are dried after harvesting, resemble small, thick nails with a round head, which gave them the formerly common name "little nails", which in time became the misleading designation.

Cloves can be bought whole or ground. As an indispensable ingredient they traditionally belong in spice mixtures such as curry, garam masala or gingerbread spice.

Origins

The original home of the clove tree is the tropics and Africa. Even today, the dark cloves from Zanzibar or the Moluccas are still considered to be particularly good.

Seasonality

In this country, cloves play a role above all in baking during the Advent season; they are one of the typical spices for gingerbread and gingerbread gingerbread.

Flavor

Thanks to the abundant essential oils, cloves smell and taste very intense, slightly hot and (similar to mint) pleasantly fresh.

Find all our clove recipes here.

How Healthy Are Cloves?

The strong smell of cloves and the characteristic taste of the inconspicuous buds are mainly due to the essential oil eugenol, which is abundant in them. Eugenol not only smells and tastes very intense, it also has healing effects. 

And this in two ways: Eugenol has an antibacterial effect (1) and is therefore used in the form of pure clove oil in many dental practices and dental clinics as a disinfectant for dental inflammations (2). However, clove oil not only helps infections to subside, it also has a local anaesthetic effect. The old tip from great-grandmother's bag of tricks, to suck cloves for toothache, therefore actually works.

Studies have also shown that cloves are among the most effective antioxidants: Among eight spices tested for their antioxidant (i.e. cell-protective) effect, cloves scored best by far.

Thanks to the abundance of essential oils, cloves also have pleasant effects in food in addition to their seasoning power: They promote digestion, prevent flatulence and inhibit harmful bacteria in the intestines such as salmonella (4).

That cloves can also drive away less pleasant bad breath is proven by a custom from North Africa: there, people like to chew on cloves all day long in order to have clean breath.

There is little negative to say about carnations - except that very cheap carnations are sometimes faked. Counterfeiters use two methods for this: either they extract the precious essential oil eugenol from the cloves, which makes the spice sold in this way worthless and unusable for seasoning. Or in the case of ground cloves, they use other, less spicy parts of the clove tree instead of real cloves.

Tip: If cloves seem suspiciously unflavored to you, take the swim test: good cloves sink in water because of the high oil content and stand upright with their head up; inferior cloves remain flat in the water.

Clove Nutritional Info (100 g)  
Calories 432
Protein 6 g
Fat 20 g
Carbohydrates 52 g
Fiber 9.6 g

Shopping and Cooking Tips


Shopping

While cloves are not cheap, their intense flavor means you don't need to use a ton to reap the spiece's taste benefits. Whole cloves are more expensive than ground, however ultimately they are a better value, as they stay fresh for way longer and have a more intense taste. 

Storage

Cloves' abundant essential oils give this spice their distinctive taste, however can quickly evaporate if stored incorrectly. Keep the essential oils fresh by keeping your whole cloves in a tightly-seeled jar, and make sure to store them in a space that is protected from light and not too warm.

Preparation

No special preparation is required for cloves.

What To Make With Cloves

Cloves are a classic spice for winter beverages, desserts and entrees such as punch, mulled wine and red cabbage. Cloves are also great in compotes and an array of other fruit dishes. You can also add one or two cloves to meat dishes like ragus or in steak seasoning to add depth of flavor.

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