Friday, 5 September 2008

Clove Herb - Not just for Christmas

The clove herb is a funny looking thing and you will find it in many a kitchen hardly touched for years and used mainly at Christmas. It is another underrated herb with many uses.

It was used by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all used cloves and in China to freshen the breath.

The clove tree needs a humid, warm tropical climate with lots of water all year round. It is native to the Island of Moluccas, in Eastern Indonesia.

The clove trees are small, bushy and evergreen. They have shiny, leathery, spike-like and fragrant leaves. In fact, all parts of the tree are highly aromatic. The tree produces light pink flowers that drop off when opening and the yellow stamens are developed in late summer subsequently purple berries appear.

In cultivating the clove herb, the buds are picked and dried just before blooming; this is the time when the clove oil is extracted. Clove oil has powerful elements that numbs pain and kills bacteria and fungi. The antibacterial elements are used to treat colds, mouth abscesses, gum disease, earache and arthritis illnesses.

You will see many aromatherapy air fresheners with cloves as a base and for good reason as the smell reminds us of joy and celebration. No doubt from the reminder of Christmas, albeit that cloves only came about during Christmas since Victorian times.

If you have a toothache, rub a little clove oil directly on where it hurts, but don't swallow. It will kill bacteria and fungi,

Clove oil being pure eugenol oil can relieve nausea and indigestion and will relieve most causes of diarrhoea.

In food circles it is well know that cloves match well with many other foods but especially, apples, game, ham, lamb, pumpkin, sausage, tea, tomatoes, walnuts and wine

A mulled wine recipe is give here

Mulled Spiced Wine

Ingredients:

2 bottles red wine (merlot's good here)
10 cloves
juice of 2 oranges and the zest of one
100g. sugar,
1 cup water
2 tsp mixed spice
2 sticks cinnamon

(You may add a 1/4 cup of brandy or rakia if you wish)

One Step Method

Place everything in a saucepan and gently heat for around 10 minutes. (IMPORTANT - Don't boil) That's it!

Serve and enjoy the wonderful taste and fragrance, and not just at Christmas.

Another favourite use of cloves of mine is to insert as many as you can into an orange and leave it on the shelf. It acts as a natural air freshener and gives off a wonderful scent for up to two weeks.

Finally, as mentioned at the start, many people just use cloves once a year and the freshness lost as the years go by. You really need to keep the stock fresh by either buying a fresh batch each year or do as I do. I put my cloves in a small plastic airtight container and keep them in the freezer. You need to freeze them all individually on a tray initially before storing them in bulk. This way they won't end up as a 'frozen lump'. The freshness is kept alive this way and takes up no space at all in the freezer.


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