Easily recognised by their distinctive nail-like appearance, cloves are the dried, unopened buds of the Syzygium aromaticum tree, native to the Moluccas islands in Indonesia. The name clove, in fact, refers to their appearance, deriving from the French clou, which means nail.
Whole cloves have a powerful fragrant aroma (hence their traditional use in pomanders) and are widely used in cuisines around the world. Cloves are wonderfully versatile, used to flavour everything from pickled herrings to fragrant Indian rice pulaos.
Their nail-like shape and hardness means that they are often pierced into ingredients as a way of embedding them in a dish, so studding hams or onions for onion sauce. When it comes to cooking with cloves, bear in mind their potency, as even one clove will add a pronounced flavour to a dish.
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