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Cloves are the immature unopened flower buds of a tropical tree. The four-pointed flower bud with a tapered stem measures 12-16 mm, and looks like a small nail. Hence, it is believed that the name clove comes from the Latin word clavus, which means nails.
When fresh, they are pink, and when dried, they turn to a rust-brown colour. Their flavour can be termed as sweetly pungent, astringent and strongly aromatic.
This can be prepared by roasting the whole cloves and then crushing them into fine powder. A blender may be used for this purpose as cloves are hard to be ground into powder in a mortar and pestle. Clove powder is used for marinades or stews or soups.
How to select
• Cloves can be bought whole or in the ground form.
• Whole cloves are much more aromatic and flavourful, and so you should try to buy whole cloves as opposed to the ground powder.
• Whole cloves should be compact and free of any blemishes.
• Just like with other dried spices, when purchasing cloves, try to select that which is organically grown since this will give you more assurance that it has not been irradiated.
• Cloves can easily overpower a dish, particularly when ground, so only a few need be used.
• Whole cloves are often used like a nail to stud or bind vegetables, rotis, samosas, rolls, sweets, etc.
• Cloves are used in the preparation of several spice mixtures including garam masala, curry powders, mulling spices and pickling spices.
• Cloves also figure in the famous Worcestershire sauce.
• They are very popular in Indian cuisine, and used commonly to add aroma to rice preparations.
How to store
• Cloves are best bought whole.
• They last for a long time, if stored in an airtight container out of direct light. However, due to its high oil content clove becomes rancid after too long. So, check the freshness once in a while by feeling the texture and aroma.
• As a powder, the flavour quickly deteriorates. But, since clove powder cannot be made in a mortar pestle and requires a coffee/spice grinder, it cannot be made for single use. So, try to make in small quantities and store in an airtight container.
• Indians have long used cloves to treat indigestion, diarrhoea, hernia, and ringworm, as well as athlete's foot and other fungal infections.
• India's traditional Ayurvedic healers have used cloves since ancient times to treat respiratory and digestive ailments and its oil for toothache.
• It has powerful antiseptic and mild anaesthetic actions.
• When boiled with water and gargled, cloves are a good antibacterial mouthwash, which can help to combat bad breath and relieve a sore throat.
• Cloves are said to restore the appetite, and hence recommended for people with digestive disorders.
• Cloves are effective at clearing up a number of skin disorders such as acne, sores or ulcers.
• It has antioxidant properties, owing to the compound eugenol in it.
• Eating cloves is said to be aphrodisiac.
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