Sunday, November 19, 2017

“He who controls the spice controls the universe.” ― Frank Herbert, Dune

Here recently I decided to make pomanders – cloved apples.  You can use oranges but I like apples because with an orange, I have to use an ice pick or other sharp implement to punch my holes first.  With an apple, I can just poke in the cloves.  I have a large oblong handmade wood bowl filled with pinecones, dried pomegranates, acorns, nuts and other odd things that have caught my attention in the big wide world.  I’ve had pomanders in it for years and this year decided to make a few more.  They add a nice fragrance and I like them.  They last a long time and when the scent fades all you need to do is put a few drops of clove oil on them and, voilà!, they smell nice again.

So, DID YOU KNOW – cloves come from a tree (Syzygium aromaticum).  They’re native to
Indonesia, India, Madagascar, Zanzibar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania.  Clove trees are evergreen, have green, oval leatherlike leaves, and can grow as tall as 60 feet.  They produce green buds that grow into little white flowers and ultimately into red berries.  A clove tree must be at least 8 years old before it will bloom.  Clove production tends to fluctuate year to year.  One year there will be a heavy crop, the next very light (sounds like my pecan trees!). 

And, where are the cloves we all recognize?  Well, those are the flower buds.  The buds start out green and when they turn reddish, they are picked.  Once the little white flowers bloom, the flavor is lessened,
therefore, buds are harvested just prior to blooming. 

I think I might need one – a clove tree.  They need a warm tropical climate with high humidity levels (CHECK), a rich, loamy soil (CHECK), fast draining soil (CHECK), temperatures that stay above 50° (Mostly, usually, - that could be a problem).  They will take 10-15 years to reach maximum production levels (I need to get one really soon).  Once picked, the buds are dried in the sun or in a hot air chambers (I have a dehumidifier – CHECK) until the bud stem has turned dark brown and rest of the bud a lighter brown color.

Historically, cloves were used as an antiseptic, to control nausea and vomiting, improve digestion, protect against internal parasites, and as a pain reliever.  They can be used to flavor meats and stews, sauces, warm beverages like cider and tea, pickled vegetables, breads, cheeses, and desserts but remember, cloves have an intense flavor – a little goes a long way.

Whole cloves hold their flavor longer than ground clove. So, you can use a coffee bean grinder to make your own, more flavorful powder.  How to know if the cloves you bought are still full of flavor?  Well, place one clove in a cup of water; a good quality, fresh clove will float vertically, a stale one will sink or float horizontally.  Keep them in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark, dry place.  Or, to keep them fresher longer, store them in the above glass jar in the fridge.

Cloves have been used for more than 2,000 years. Chinese courtiers dating back to 200 BC would keep them in their mouths in order to freshen their breath when addressing the emperor so as to not offend him. Arab traders brought cloves to Europe around the 4th century, although they did not come into widespread use until the Middle Ages when they became prized for their flavor.

And yet another use - burn them to attract riches, drive away hostile forces and stop any gossip about you.  Place them in sachets with mint and rose to chase away melancholy and to help one sleep soundly.  A pomander given as a gift indicates a warmth of feeling, one person to another.

Take care.

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