Back to the Roots Part 4: Cloves
Introduction note from the author:
We are almost in the dark season, where light is limited, temperatures are low and snow is in the air!
Dears, this is when miracles are on their way and more time and attention are directed inward. We reflect on a lot of things that happened during this year and may find some much needed space for introspection…
I wish you all a super illuminated time with relaxation, recreation and well-deserved insights!
A hearty welcome back to another post about specialty crops grown in Indonesia!
What a fantastic spice is made out of these little pieces called cloves! These funny-looking flower buds have an intense flavor. They are picked from wild trees and simply dried in the tropical sun when laid out on cloths as seen everywhere in Indonesia (Pic.2)!
Cloves – Botanical feature
The plant is classified in the botanic family Myrtaceae as the species Syzygium aromaticum. This evergreen tree grows originally in the Moluccas (Maluku) — also called the Spice Islands of Indonesia—and can reach a height of 12 m (39.37 ft). The flowers are grouped in terminal clusters as shown in Pic 3. The early developing flower buds are pale, then turn to shades of green and at harvest become fully red with a length of 1.5 to 2 cm (0.59 – 0.79 in). Since it looks like a nail in shape the Latin name “clove” was given to these little flower buds (see Pic. 2).
The origin of this inspiring spice is documented in the Moluccas, where the oldest clove tree in the world is said to be on Ternate, one of the Spice Islands of Indonesia, being 350 – 400 years old (Worrall, Simon [23 June 2012]. "The world's oldest clove tree". BBC News Magazine).
It is said that this spice was introduced to other regions out of Moluccas through stolen seedlings from this very tree in 1770 when it was transferred to Mauritius and later to Zanzibar, once the main producer of cloves.
However, before clove trees were planted outside of Indonesia, the processed oil was traded by the Dutch East India Company. This trade company was very powerful and tried to get a monopoly on cloves as they had done with nutmeg, but, as cloves grew all over the Indonesian Islands, they did not succeed in their efforts.
For those of you, who want to know more about the rich history of clove plants, you can find more information using this link:
As we all know from our childhood, cloves added to dishes like soups, fruits or cole do not taste nice when we bite into them, right? So, we learned to carefully take them out before eating and instead enjoy the wonderful, rich, sweet, and aromatic flavor as an ingredient!
Oh, how intense is the smell of cloves! We are really dazzled by its intense aroma even more so in hot meals.
We find cloves in the Asian, African, Near and Mid-East regions often combined with citron or sugar. In Mexico, they include cinnamon and cumin with the so-called “clavos de olor” and in Peru they prepare “carapulcra” (Pic. 4) and “arroz con leche” with cloves.
The oil does the kick!
Interestingly—but for more advanced readers about spices not surprisingly—the most important compound for the aroma of cloves is the oil. More specifically Eugenol is between 72 and 90% of the essence of clove oil extractions; this constituent is responsible for the taste and smell giving us the intense sensory experience!
By the way, Eugenol has not been classified as toxic.
One more interesting use to close with
There is a special use for cloves in Indonesia, which is smoking a cigarette called “kretek”. It is also smoked in Europe as well as in Asia and the US.
See below the typical lay out of cloves being dried in the sun (Pic. 5).
Pic. 3 - Source: By Prof. Chen Hualin - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45497337
Worrall, Simon (23 June 2012). "The world's oldest clove tree". BBC News Magazine.
Pic. 5 - Source: By Pemba.mpimaji at English Wikipedia, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32428776