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Cloves are the unopened pink flower buds of the evergreen clove tree. The buds are picked by hand when they are pink and dried until they turn brown in color. Cloves are about 1/2-inch long and 1/4-inch in diameter and with their tapered stem, they resemble tiny nails. In fact, their English name is actually derived from the Latin word clavus, which means nail.
Although cloves have a very hard exterior, their flesh features an oily compound that is essential to their nutritional and flavor profile. Cloves have a warm, sweet and aromatic taste that evokes the sultry tropical climates where they are grown.
Primary Nutrients: Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sodium, Vitamins A, Vitamin B-complex and Vitamin C
How to Select and Store
Whenever possible, buy whole cloves instead of clove powder since the latter loses its flavor more quickly. When squeezed with a fingernail, good quality cloves will release some of their oil. Alternatively, you can place a clove in a cup of water. Those of good quality will float vertically while those that are stale will either sink or float horizontally.
Even through dried herbs and spices are widely available in supermarkets, explore the local spice stores or ethnic markets in your area. Oftentimes, these stores feature an expansive selection of dried herbs and spices that are of superior quality and freshness compared to those offered in regular markets. Just like with other dried spices, try to select organically grown cloves since this will give you more assurance that the herb has not been irradiated.
It should be kept in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark and dry place. Ground cloves will keep for about six months, while whole cloves will stay fresh for about one year stored this way. Alternatively, you can extend their shelf life by storing them in the refrigerator.