Cloves are the aromatic dried flower buds of a tree in the family Myrtaceae, Syzygium aromaticum. Cloves are native to the Maluku islands in Indonesia and used as a spice in cuisines all over the world. Cloves are harvested primarily in Indonesia, India, Madagascar, Zanzibar, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. They have a numbing effect on mouth tissues.
The clove tree is an evergreen that grows to a height ranging from 8–12 m, having large leaves and sanguine flowers in numerous groups of terminal clusters. The flower buds are at first of a pale color and gradually become green, after which they develop into a bright red, when they are ready for collecting. Cloves are harvested when 1.5–2 cm long, and consist of a long calyx, terminating in four spreading sepals, and four unopened petals which form a small ball in the center.
Cloves are often used in Asian, African, and Middle Eastern cooking in adding flavor to meats, curries, and meat marinades. They are also used to create sweet dishes, such as with fruits like apples, pears, or rhubarb.
In Mexican cuisine, cloves are best known as clavos de olor, and often used together with cumin and cinnamon.
Considered a very strong spice due to the eugenol chemical that makes up most of the clove's taste (85 percent), the quantity of clove used in recipes is usually small. It pairs well with cinnamon, allspice, vanilla, red wine, and basil, as well as with uncommon combinations like onion, citrus peel, star anise or peppercorns.