Cloves are the immature unopened flower buds of a tropical tree. When fresh, they are pink, dried, they turn to a rust-brown colour. They have strong, sweet aroma and hot, pungent taste, Cloves are best bought whole and then powdered, if necessary. They have been used in India for thousands of years, not only in cooking, but to freshen the breath and to relieve the pain of toothache. They contain a mild anesthetic. Whole cloves are frequently used to flavor meat dishes, curries, and soups.
Cloves – Names in different Indian Languages.
Hindi– Laung, Bengal – Labang,, Gujrati - laving, Punjabi – Lavang
Tamil - Lavangam, Urdu – Laung
Eugenol comprises 72-90% of the essential oil extracted from cloves, and is the compound most responsible for the cloves' aroma. Eugenol has pronounced antiseptic and anaesthetic properties. Of the dried buds, 15 - 20 percent is essential oils, and the majority of this is eugenol.
Cloves have historically been used in Indian cuisine (both North Indian and South Indian). In North Indian cuisine, it is used in almost all rich or spicy dishes as an ingredient of a mix named garam masala, along with other spices, although it is not an everyday ingredient for home cuisine, nor is it used in summer very often. In the Maharashtra region of India it is used sparingly for sweet or spicy dishes, but rarely in everyday cuisine Dried cloves are also a key ingredient in Indian masala chai, spiced tea, a special variation of tea popular in some regions, notably Gujarat.
Cloves can be bought whole or in the ground form. Whole cloves are much more aromatic and flavoursome and if possible try to buy whole cloves as opposed to the ground powder
Another advantage of whole cloves is that they will keep for around 6 months longer than the ground form, lasting for about a year if stored in an airtight container.
Cloves can easily overpower a dish, particularly when ground, so only a few need to be used.