January 14, 2013One of the most important spices in world history, cloves are the prize that launched the spice wars between 16th century European powers for the bounty found on the Molucca Islands of Indonesia.
At the height of the spice wars, a successful voyage with a ship full of cloves (the dried buds of the flower of the evergreen, Syzygiumaromaticum) was worth a fortune. The odds of returning home with a cargo of cloves was one in seven, mostly due to hazardous seafaring and piracy.
When Dutch traders burned clove trees in the 1800's to alter the balance of supply and demand, Moluccan islanders, who treated the trees as sacred, started a rebellion which heralded the end of their colonization.
A Han Dynasty manuscript is the earliest known record of this spice. It tells how using clove as a breath freshener was required before meeting with the king.
Named by the French for 'nail' (clou), cloves are sweet and very pungent. This made them great for masking odorous (but necessary) meat in the Middle Ages.
Cloves are used in baking breads, curry blends, cooking meats and for the production of kreteks, a flavorful cigarette from Indonesia.
Many perfumes and oils are based on the scent of the clove. Today they are mostly grown in Tanzania, but also in their native Indonesia, as well as Sri Lanka, Madascar and Brazil.
Dishes – Add cloves sparingly to chicken mole. Zest up gingerbread. Combine with cumin and nutmeg in curry.
Pairings – When serving a clove spiced Indian dish, try Riesling or Gewurztraminer. When enjoying a spicy clove cookie or bread sip a sweet Muscat. ORIGIN: MOLUCCA ISLANDS, INDONESIA
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