Cloves — A star in the kitchen and in health studies

Cloves contain significant amounts of an active component called eugenol, which has been the subject of numerous health studies, including studies about the prevention of toxicity from environmental pollutants, digestive tract cancers and joint inflammation.

Cloves contain significant amounts of an active component called eugenol, which has been the subject of numerous health studies, including studies about the prevention of toxicity from environmental pollutants, digestive tract cancers and joint inflammation.

by Joanne Henning Tedesco — 

Cloves (Eugenia caryophyllus) are the unopened pink flower buds of the evergreen clove tree that are picked by hand and dried until they turn brown. They are renowned for providing their uniquely warm, sweet and aromatic taste to gingerbread, pumpkin pie and apple cider, but they also can make a wonderful addition to split pea and bean soups, baked beans and chili.

Although cloves have a very hard exterior, their flesh is composed of an oily compound that is essential to their nutritional and flavor profiles. Cloves contain significant amounts of an active component called eugenol, which has been the subject of numerous health studies, including studies about the prevention of toxicity from environmental pollutants, digestive tract cancers and joint inflammation.

In the United States, eugenol extracts from cloves have often been used in dentistry in conjunction with root canal therapy, temporary fillings and general gum pain. Eugenol and other components found in cloves (including beta-caryophyllene) combine to make the clove a mild anesthetic, as well as an antibacterial agent.

Cloves also contain a variety of flavonoids, including kaempferol and rhamnetin, which contribute to the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of cloves. They are a very good source of manganese, dietary fiber, vitamin C, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium and magnesium.

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. When placed in a cup of water, high quality cloves will float vertically, while stale cloves will either sink or float horizontally.

Since cloves have a very intense flavor, especially those that have been ground, care should be taken when deciding how much to use in a recipe, so as to not overpower the flavors of the other ingredients.

 

Joanne Henning Tedesco is editor of AzNetNews.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 24, Number 6, December 2005/January 2006.

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