The na­ture of things

Cloves

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country Notebook - Edited by Vic­to­ria Marston

OR aroma and flavour, there is noth­ing else like a clove and, more than at any other time of year, this warm­ing spice comes to the fore in the cold­ness of win­ter. Its pun­gent, sweet flavour com­ple­ments hearty meats such as gam­mon, beef and veni­son; pressed into an onion, its aro­matic spici­ness in­fuses casseroles. Cloves make a fine part­ner to ap­ples and rhubarb and are es­sen­tial to the flavour­ing of warm punches and mulled wine.

But what are cloves? Orig­i­nat­ing in the Molucca (or Maluku) is­lands of east In­done­sia, for cen­turies, clove was a spice al­most be­yond price and its ori­gins re­mained a tan­ta­lis­ing se­cret. As Por­tuguese ex­plor­ers ven­tured ever far­ther east in search of spices, one Fran­cisco Ser­rão reached the Moluc­cas in 1511, to be fol­lowed in due course by oth­ers. Count­less lives were lost in the en­su­ing bat­tles be­tween Dutch, Por­tuguese and English traders for dom­i­nance over the supremely lu­cra­tive spice mar­ket.

From Syzgium aro­maticum, a trop­i­cal tree achiev­ing some 30ft–50ft in height, the nu­mer­ous small flower buds are har­vested as they

Fswell but be­fore they open and are quickly dried. The name ‘clove’ de­rives from the Latin clavus, a nail, and, in­deed, the dried buds are as hard as nails, driv­ing eas­ily into a ham for flavour­some dec­o­ra­tion or an orange to make an old-fash­ioned po­man­der. KBH

Il­lus­tra­tion by Bill Dono­hoe

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