Of all the different spices used in cooking, perhaps the spiciest of the spicy is the clove, or Eugenia caryophyllata as it is called in scientific circles. This wonderfully aromatic spice originally came from the Moluccas Islands, which are commonly known as the Spice Islands. As seems to usually be the case with most of the spices around the world, the history of the clove is filled with bloodshed. However, there is a slight twist in the history of the clove. That twist was that the original inhabitants of the Moluccas Islands weren't fighting to prevent the trade of cloves, but rather for control of the clove trade.
When growing in the wild, the evergreen clove tree has beautiful blossoms which range in color from pink to a bright red. However, what is exceptionally interesting is that the masculine plant (which tends to be the most sought after) is actually pink in color, as opposed to the bright red. Cloves are used around the world in many different ways. In fact, the clove isn't only used for cooking. Some of the interesting ways that this great spice is used includes being used as an ingredient for perfumes, as a natural anesthetic, an additive for soaps, and as an ingredient in many kinds of cigarettes. Most commonly though, cloves are used as ingredients in everything from cooking hams, to flavoring hot chocolate and coffee drinks.
One of the largest problems that people have when using cloves to cook is in learning how to balance the powerfully aromatic spice with the other ingredients. For example, if you were wishing to use little bit of cloves to enhance the flavor of your hot chocolate, you would want to use only a pinch. If you are looking to balance some of the strong flavors that onions can impart, then try using a clove. Keep in mind though that the clove can easily overpower the taste of the onion, so if you are looking for a nice equilibrium of the two flavors, then you should only use single clove, instead of the several that you might think were necessary.
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