Cloves are native to the Maluku islands of Indonesia, though are currently produced and exported by Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Madagascar. Of the evergreen tree family, cloves are the tree’s dried flower buds, used in Asian cooking and western desserts. Cloves possess a strong flavor that lends a dark, rich depth to soups and stews, though using too much of this spice results in a bitter flavor to be avoided.

Whole cloves are typically used in preparing broths while its ground form is easier to work with for a larger variety of dishes including stir-fries, stews and desserts. Common culinary uses of cloves include Vietnamese Pho, Indian Masala Chai, Indonesian stews and Dutch-Indonesian cookies. When cooking with cloves, it’s prudent to think of “less is more.” You can always slowly add more if you need it but remedying the addition of too much clove is nearly impossible.

Health benefits of cloves have been the subject of intensive medical studies given this spice’s high content of a compound called Eugenol, which is believed to significantly prevent toxicity from environmental pollutants and behave as an anesthetic and antibacterial agent.