What Are Whole Cloves?


Quick Answer

Whole cloves are dried, unopened flower buds from a type of tropical myrtle. These spicy-sweet buds can be used in cooking whole or ground into a powder.

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Full Answer

Whole cloves are frequently used to decorate and add flavor to ham. Cooks simply insert a few whole cloves into the skin of the meat for a distinctive flavor. They are sometimes used in recipes with fruit, such as oranges and apples. When whole clove is ground, it is often used in baking. It has strong, sweet and peppery taste with a spicy bite.

Cloves are harvested in Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka, and they are generally available any time of year. Whole cloves look like small nails. The word "clove" is derived from the French word for nail, "clau."

Cooks should store whole cloves in a cool, dark place in an airtight container to keep them fresh. If stored properly, whole cloves last a year or sometimes longer.

Ground cloves are used frequently in holiday baking. Gingerbread and most ginger cookies require ground cloves.

Adding whole cloves to a tea is thought to help soothe congestion from a cold, allergies or the flu. It also makes a fragrant potpourri or sachet to keep bedding or clothing smelling great.

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