Clove or Syzgium aromaticum is a tropical evergreen tree that produces small reddish brown flower buds usually used for spice. Originated from Moluccas or Maluku, the spice island in Indonesia cloves were an important spice in the earliest spice trade. Clove is a famous spice because of its characteristic flavour, strong aroma, and the hot and pungent taste. In Europe during late middle ages cloves were used to preserve, flavour, and garnish foods. Generally in the culinary world, cloves are usually used as spice for flavoring various foods. Cloves are also produced as essential oil that is commonly used in flavorings medicines or synthetic vanilla, and in perfume. They are also used in medicinal, because cloves is a natural analgesic and antiseptic.
Cloves could be harvested from cloves tree when it's around 6-8 years old. Harvesting is the critical time for clove buds. The clove buds should be harvested before the purple or crimson flower starts to develop, precisely when the outer green leaves of the flower bud change from olive green to yellow pink and before the petals fall to expose the steamens. In harvesting, the cloves branches should not be removed or damaged for this will reduce the yield of future crops. After harvest, the buds and the stems are separated then dried separately. Both buds and stems are dried in the sun spreaded on clean mats. They are turned frequently to ensure the development of even brown colour in cloves. The drying process takes four to five days with the final moisture in cloves around 8 to 10%. During rainy seasons, cloves will be dried using a mechanical drier. The dried cloves buds then winnowed using a traditional winnowing basket to remove dust and other foreign material. After that cloves are then packed in polythene bags and then sealed to prevent moisture entering.
Cloves are generally used as culinary spice for flavoring a variety of foods usually in Indian and Mexican cuisines. But cloves could be used as essential oil for flavorings in medicines or synthetic vanilla, and in perfume. Cloves are also used medicinally as natural analgesic and antiseptic, usually in Chinese medicine. While in Indonesia cloves are the ingredients for cigarettes called “kretek”.
The US Government and American Spice Trade Association standards for cloves are as follows:
Moisture (% wet basis) <8%
Extraneous matter <1%
Mouldy buds <1%
Cloves are categorized as spice.