As early as 200 BCE, envoys from Java to the Han-dynasty court of China brought cloves that were customarily held in the mouth to perfume the breath during audiences with the emperor. During the late Middle Ages, cloves were used in Europe to preserve, flavour, and garnish food.
Clove cultivation was almost entirely confined to Indonesia, and in the early 17th century the Dutch eradicated cloves on all islands except Amboina and Ternate in order to create scarcity and sustain high prices. In the latter half of the 18th century, the French smuggled cloves from the East Indies to Indian Ocean islands and the New World, breaking the Dutch monopoly. In the early 21st century, Indonesia was the world’s largest producer of cloves, followed by Madagascar, Tanzania, and Sri Lanka. Source
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 flavour to hot beverages, and bring spicy warmth to cookies and cakes. You may know cloves as one of the main ingredients in gingerbread baked goods or a staple spice in Indian cuisine.
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