(Syzygium aromaticum also Eugenia caryophyllata)
Cloves are actually dried flower buds, which are picked before they open. The clove tree is a member of the myrtle family and is native to the Spice Islands of Indonesia (Moluccas).
Indonesia uses half the world production of cloves. The cloves are mixed with tobacco to make kretek cigarettes, two parts tobacco to one part cloves.
The world's leading producer of cloves is the island of Pemba (Tanzania), 30 miles off the east coast of Africa.
The name Cloves comes from the French "clou", meaning nail. The first references to Cloves are found in Oriental literature in the Han period in China under the name "chicken-tongue spice". From the 8th Century on, Cloves became one of the major spices in European commerce. When the Clove forests were first discovered in Indonesia, all were enchanted with the fragrance and beauty of this tropical evergreen tree which "must always see the sea" in order to thrive. Cloves were extremely costly and played an important part in world history. Wars were fought to secure exclusive rights to the profitable Clove business. In the Moluccas, where Cloves were first found, parents planted a Clove tree when a child was born.
Cloves are an important ingredient in the spice blends of Sri Lanka and North India. They are used in garam masala, biryanis, and pickles. In the U.S., cloves are used in meats, salad dressings, and desserts. Clove is a key flavor contributor to ketchup and Worcestershire sauce seasoning blends. Chinese and German seasonings also depend on Cloves to flavor meats and cookies.
From The Devil’s Food Dictionary
©2006 by Barry Foy (www.devilsfooddictionary.com)
clove A nail-shaped, brown flower bud used whole or ground as a spice. Individual cloves have a powerful magnetic charge and, if not managed carefully, will collect in hard-to-manage clumps. They can be kept apart by jamming them firmly into a canned ham.