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Cloves

Like other spices, cloves are available throughout the year. They are renown for providing their uniquely warm, sweet and aromatic taste to ginger bread and pumpkin pie, but they can also make a wonderful addition to split pea and bean soups, baked beans and chili.

Cloves are the unopened pink flower buds of the evergreen clove tree. The buds are picked by hand when they are pink and dried until they turn brown in color. Cloves are about ½ inch long and ¼ inch in diameter and with their tapered stem, they resemble tiny nails. In fact, their English name is actually derived from the Latin word clavus, which means nail. Although cloves have a very hard exterior, their flesh features an oily compound that is essential to their nutritional and flavor profile.

 


Health Benefits

Clove contains significant amounts of an active component called eugenol, which has made it the subject of numerous health studies, including studies on the prevention of toxicity from environmental pollutants like carbon tetrachloride, digestive tract cancers, and joint inflammation. In the United States, eugenol extracts from clove have often been used in dentistry in conjunction with root canal therapy, temporary fillings, and general gum pain, since eugenol and other components of clove (including beta-caryophyllene) combine to make clove a mild anaesthetic as well as an anti-bacterial agent. For these beneficial effects, you’ll also find clove oil in some over-the-counter sore throat sprays and mouth washes.

Anti-Inflammatory Activity

Eugenol, the primary component of clove’s volatile oils, functions as an anti-inflammatory substance. In animal studies, the addition of clove extract to diets already high in anti-inflammatory components (like cod liver oil, with its high omega-3 fatty acid content) brings significant added benefits, and in some studies, further reduces inflammatory symptoms by another 15-30%. Clove also contains a variety of flavonoids, including kaempferol and rhamnetin, which also contribute to clove’s anti-inflammatory (and antioxidant) properties.

A Nutrient-Dense Spice

Like its fellow spices, clove's unique phytonutrient components are accompanied by an incredible variety of traditionally-recognized nutrients. Using our nutrient ranking system, we determined cloves to be an excellent source of manganese, a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids and a good source of calcium and magnesium.

Description

Cloves are the unopened pink flower buds of the evergreen clove tree. The buds are picked by hand when they are pink and dried until they turn brown in color. Cloves are about ½ inch long and ¼ inch in diameter and with their tapered stem, they resemble tiny nails. In fact, their English name is actually derived from the Latin word clavus, which means nail.

Although cloves have a very hard exterior, their flesh features an oily compound that is essential to their nutritional and flavor profile. Cloves have a warm, sweet and aromatic taste that evokes the sultry tropical climates where they are grown.

The Latin name for cloves is Eugenia caryophyllus.

History

Cloves are native to the Moluccas, formerly known as the Spice Islands of Indonesia. They have been consumed in Asia for more than 2,000 years. Owing to their sweet and fragrant taste, Chinese courtiers dating back to 200 BC would keep them in their mouths in order to freshen their breath when addressing the emperor so as to not offend him. Arab traders brought cloves to Europe around the 4th century, although they did not come into widespread use until the Middle Ages when they became prized for their pungent flavor that served to mask the taste of poorly preserved foods. While for a long time, they were cultivated almost exclusively in Indonesia, today the leading clove-producing region is Zanzibar in Eastern Africa. In addition to these two regions, cloves are also grown commercially in the West Indies, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, India, Pemba and Brazil.

How to Select and Store

Whenever possible, buy whole cloves instead of clove powder since the latter loses its flavor more quickly. When squeezed with a fingernail, good quality cloves will release some of their oil. Alternatively, you can place a clove in a cup of water. Those of good quality will float vertically while those that are stale will either sink or float horizontally.

Even through dried herbs and spices are widely available in supermarkets, explore the local spice stores or ethnic markets in your area. Oftentimes, these stores feature an expansive selection of dried herbs and spices that are of superior quality and freshness compared to those offered in regular markets. Just like with other dried spices, try to select organically grown cloves since this will give you more assurance that the herb has not been irradiated.

Cloves should be kept in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark and dry place. Ground cloves will keep for about six months, while whole cloves will stay fresh for about one year stored this way. Alternatively, you can extend their shelf life by storing them in the refrigerator.

How to Enjoy

For some of our favorite recipes, click Recipes.

Tips for Cooking with Cloves

Since cloves have a very intense flavor, especially those that have been ground, care should be taken when deciding how much to use in a recipe so as to not overpower the flavors of the other ingredients.

The easiest way to grind whole cloves into a powder is to use a coffee grinder.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas:

Pierce an onion with whole cloves and add to soups, broths or poaching liquids.

Adding ground cloves and curry powder to healthy sautéed onions, garlic and tofu will give this dish an Indian-inspired zest.

Impart a warming note to apple cider by adding ground cloves and cinnamon.

Spice up fruit compote by adding ground cloves.

Add clove powder, walnuts and raisins to your favorite Thanksgiving stuffing recipe.

Safety

Cloves are not a commonly allergenic food, are not included in the list of 20 foods that most frequently contain pesticide residues, and are also not known to contain goitrogens, oxalates, or purines.

Nutritional Profile

Introduction to Food Rating System Chart

The following chart shows the nutrients for which this food is either an excellent, very good or good source. Next to the nutrient name you will find the following information: the amount of the nutrient that is included in the noted serving of this food; the %Daily Value (DV) that amount represents; the nutrient density rating; and, the food's World's Healthiest Foods Rating. Not all of our Daily Value standards are obtained from the FDA. In most instances, we used FDA Daily Values when available because they are widely recognized and apply to both men and women. However, when unavailable, we've used other science-based research to establish nutritional standards. Underneath the chart is a table that summarizes how the ratings were devised. Read more about our Food and Recipe Rating System.

 

Cloves, Ground
2.00 tsp
14.20 calories
Nutrient Amount DV
(%)
Nutrient
Density
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
manganese 1.32 mg 66.0 83.7 excellent
omega 3 fatty acids 0.20 g 8.0 10.1 very good
dietary fiber 1.52 g 6.1 7.7 very good
vitamin C 3.56 mg 5.9 7.5 very good
magnesium 11.60 mg 2.9 3.7 good
calcium 28.40 mg 2.8 3.6 good
World's Healthiest
Foods Rating
Rule
excellent DV>=75% OR Density>=7.6 AND DV>=10%
very good DV>=50% OR Density>=3.4 AND DV>=5%
good DV>=25% OR Density>=1.5 AND DV>=2.5%

In Depth Nutritional Profile for Cloves

References

  • Amaechi BT, Higham SM, Edgar WM. Techniques for the production of dental eroded lesions in vitro. J Oral Rehabil 1999 Feb;26(2):97-102.
  • Ensminger AH, Esminger M. K. J. e. al. Food for Health: A Nutrition Encyclopedia. Clovis, California: Pegus Press; 1986.
  • Fortin, Francois, Editorial Director. The Visual Foods Encyclopedia. Macmillan, New York.
  • Friedman M, Henika PR, Mandrell RE. Bactericidal activities of plant essential oils and some of their isolated constituents against Campylobacter jejuni, Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes, and Salmonella enterica. J Food Prot 2002 Oct;65(10):1545-60.
  • Ghelardini C, Galeotti N, Di Cesare Mannelli L, et al. Local anaesthetic activity of beta-caryophyllene. Farmaco 2001 May-2001 Jul 31;56(5-7):387-9.
  • Grieve M. A Modern Herbal. Dover Publications, New York.
  • Krishnaswamy K, Raghuramulu N. Bioactive phytochemicals with emphasis on dietary practices. Indian J Med Res 1998 Nov;108:167-81.
  • Wood, Rebecca. The Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York, NY: Prentice-Hall Press; 1988.

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