Cloves are the flower buds of the clove tree, an evergreen also known as Syzygium aromaticum. Found in both whole and ground forms, this versatile spice can be used to season pot roasts, add flavor to hot beverages, and bring spicy warmth to cookies and cakes.
Cloves are a pungent warm spice with an intense flavor and aroma. The flavor comes from the compound eugenol. On the tongue, you’ll detect sweetness, bitterness, and astringency (drying the mouth), with a noticeable amount of heat. Similar warm spices include nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice. Cloves are much more powerful than these more-tepid flavor cousins and therefore less is used in a recipe or blend. Some people find the flavor of cloves overwhelming and choose to leave this spice out entirely.
Cooking With Cloves
Whole or ground cloves are used to flavor sauces, soups and rice dishes, notably a number of traditional Indian dishes, and it’s one of the components of garam masala. Whole cloves are either removed before serving or picked out of the dish. Even when cooked, whole cloves have a very hard, woody texture that would be unpleasant to bite into.