Did you know that the name clove is derived from the Latin word claus, meaning nail? At one time I was a bit intimidated by the strong scent of this spice. Today I love to use cloves but sparingly so that they do not overwhelm the other spices and herbs. Cloves are the still-closed buds from a pyramid-shaped evergreen tree that flowers twice a year. Growing and harvesting them is an art because they have to be picked by hand at precisely the right time.The clove tree is widely cultivated in Madagascar and Tanzania. When the pink buds begin to appear, they must be harvested at once. Though the unopened buds are pink when picked, they dry to a deep, rich brown under the sun.
In traditional and folk medicine, cloves and clove oil have been used to treat infections, to aid memory, and even as an aphrodisiac. Not until the middle ages were cloves valued in cooking. In the United States cloves are used in both sweet and savory dishes with over 1,000 tons imported each year.
I enjoy tucking cloves in simmering spice bags alongside cinnamon, all spice and orange peel. I also put them in potpourri blends and holiday baking. Using them to make an orange pomander is my very favorite clove craft. Every year during the holidays I stud oranges and sometimes lemons and limes. The house smells so warm and inviting. Friends and family always comment on the wonderful fragrance when they first come for a visit.