Cloves are the unopened flower buds of the evergreen clove tree (family Myrtaceae). They are harvested by hand and dried in the sun in countries like Indonesia, Zanzibar, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, and India. Sweet, pungent, and warming, this is an intense spice and a little goes a long way. It's usually best to buy whole cloves and grind them yourself, as the powdered form loses its flavor quickly.
Though we often associate cloves with baked goods and sweets, the spice can also add depth to savory dishes, pickles, and Indian, Middle Eastern, and North African dishes. Cloves pair nicely with the flavors of apples, oranges, ham, pork, and chocolate, and other aromatic spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cardamom. We like adding a couple of whole buds to a stew or a light sprinkling of ground spice to baked winter squash.
Related: From the Spice Cupboard: Nutmeg
(Image: Emily Ho)