Laung and run out of that

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The word “clove” is derived from the Latin word clavus meaning nail, due to its distinct shape. Interestingly, other cultures and languages ​​also note its nail-like appearance – this is Clau in French, Nagel in Dutch, Clavo in spanish and Cravo in Portuguese. The Indians used the dried woody brown flower buds of Syzygium aromaticum as a very aromatic spice for centuries.

In India, Sanskrit Lavagne comes from malay Lawang or Javanese Lavan, which in turn spawned similar names in regional languages ​​- laung in Hindi and Punjabi, lavinga in Gujarati and ilavankam in Tamil. It finds mention in the old Puranas, epic poetry, Ayurveda and the Kathasaritasagara – a tome of legends written by the eleventh-century court poet Somadeva. In the wild, the clove grows 25 to 40 feet, bears large leaves with flowers and tips in purple clusters. Buds are initially pale before taking on a green tint that turns bright red when typically harvested. The bud of four closed petals rests like a pearl between its four sepals in a diamond-shaped setting with 4 claws which gives it the appearance of a nail.

Perfect accompaniment

Sitting humbly on the kitchen shelf, this little spice has improved cuisines around the world, whether Asian, Mediterranean, African, Middle Eastern or even Central and South American, with its distinct woody flavor. spicy and sweet. Cloves are used to prepare ketchup and sauces by spicing onions (the onion sting method using a stud of peeled onions or an onion sprinkled with cloves and bay leaves) as a flavor enhancer in sauces such as Worcestershire sauce, bechamel sauce, etc., imbuing a strong pungent heat and flavor. Cloves are generously present in spice blends like ras el hanout, curry and masalas powders, hot spices (used in drinks) and pickling spices. Being strong flavored, it is used in moderation to enhance the flavor and aroma of biryanis, pulaos and other rice preparations. Whole cloves are often used in ham and meats by simply pricking them into the flesh for added flavor. Historically, cloves were studded on game meats like game, wild boar and hare to enhance the flavor.

In India, the clove is used in the same way to pin the candy Lavang Lata, studded on laddus or used to staple a paan (betel leaf). Besides flavoring and flavoring Indian cuisine in a unique way, its many hidden benefits make cloves a regular part of home remedies. Invariably, every grandmother recommends clove oil or chewing a clove for a nasty toothache or tooth decay. It acts as a pain reliever with its mildly numbing comfort providing relief. Ayurvedic healers use cloves to treat respiratory and digestive issues. A panacea for toothaches, sore throats, stomach aches, cholesterol control, treatment of Parkinson’s disease tremors, aid in weight loss, blood sugar control, Cloves play a vital role in aromatherapy and well-being.

While cloves have been used in India and China for over 2,000 years, the tree is native to the Spice Islands or the five Moluccas Islands – Bacan, Makian, Moti, Ternate and Tidor, collectively referred to as the Archipelago of Moluccas in eastern Indonesia. Here it has grown naturally with nutmeg and mace for thousands of years. The islanders planted cloves to mark the birth of a child and cared for them believing that the tree was related to the well-being of the child.

Spice wars

It is believed that the oldest clove tree grew in Ternate and was called ‘Afo’. In the Middle Ages, the Arabs ruled trade in the Indian Ocean, followed by the Portuguese and the Spanish in the 15th century. The discovery of cloves and nutmeg and the attraction of profit started the spice war of the colonial powers. People planted cloves extensively in the 16-17th century, and the Dutch East India Company gained a monopoly on the harvest. The ambition for absolute control prompted the Dutch to launch clove-burning campaigns to destroy crops in areas beyond their control, thus incurring the wrath of the natives as the trees were intrinsic to their culture.

In 1770, the French managed to secretly introduce the clove tree to Mauritius via the horticulturalist Pierre Poivre, nicknamed “Peter Pepper, thief of cloves and nutmeg”. He smuggled five shoots of the old Afo clove tree from the Moluccas; the only surviving shrub initiated spice plantations in Madagascar, Réunion and the rest of the world… and overturned Dutch supremacy over the clove trade! Subsequently, the culture was introduced to Guinea, Brazil, the West Indies and Zanzibar. In the 17th and 18th centuries, cloves were worth their weight in gold in Britain. It’s rather ironic how a tiny flower bud with extraordinary qualities and value could spark so many wars and bloodshed and ultimately redraw the power map of the world.

Sri Lanka has become one of the main suppliers of cloves to Europe and recently the remains of a rare sample of cloves dating from AD 900 to 1100, in addition to black pepper, were discovered in the area. ancient port of Mantai, revealing the existence of a thriving expedition trade route from the Moluccas to Sri Lanka some 7,000 km away via South East Asia from where it was transported to India, Rome and the ‘Arabia! Another archaeological dig in Syria unearthed spices including cloves that date back almost 4,000 years to around 1721 BC. How they got there would trace the history of the trade.

Divine flower

In India, clove was a precious spice celebrated as the “divine flower” in early texts dating back to AD 800. In Hinduism, the clove is considered sacred and features in some texts and astrology as a remedy for negativity or money and problems related to prosperity. Offer cloves often, burn cloves in oil or according to Tantra Shashtra worshiping goddess Lakshmi with rose petals and cloves is believed to attract good luck and fortune. In medieval Europe, cloves were in great demand for medicine and culinary use and also during Christmas to prepare sweets and mulled wine. German herbalists used it to treat gout. In China and Japan, besides its use in medicine to combat indigestion, diarrhea, hernia, ringworm, and fungal infections, clove was used as an air scenter and in the industry. incense.

Eugenol, the star component of clove essential oil, is responsible for its prized value due to its unique properties. It has antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anesthetic and anticancer and chemopreventive properties. Dentistry has also adopted clove and its extracts for dental care and dental preparations – from mouthwashes and toothpaste to dressings, fillings and cavity coatings! Eugenol is widely used in the pharmaceutical, agricultural products, perfumes, flavors and cosmetics industries. It is also a pesticide and fumigant safe for agriculture! Farmers use it to prevent microbial or fungal growth in fruits and vegetables. It is used to flavor whiskey and in making spiced rum in addition to cooking and making ice cream.

However, one of the most fascinating uses of cloves is as a fruit pomander, a modern adaptation of an ancient jewelry accessory. Originally popular in the Middle Ages, the pomander (from the French term amber apple literally “amber apple”) was a perforated scent ball worn in a vase or hung from a chain or belt, as a religious keepsake to ward off plague, infections and bad smells. Today, spicy orange pomanders are fascinating natural air fresheners made by sticking cloves in a myriad of patterns in oranges often sprinkled with cinnamon. Placed in a bowl or tied on ribbons and left to dry and hang for a few days, orange pomanders are especially prevalent at festivals like Christmas, Halloween or Thanksgiving and a delicious way to scent your home or wardrobe!

(The authors are writers on travel and food “loosely based” in Bangalore. They’ve written guidebooks and table books, including a USDA cookbook called “Southern Comfort: Southern American Soul Food,” created an award-winning restaurant, and curated the Indian episode of Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted, season 2. Follow their adventures on Instagram: @red_scarab)


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