Cloves are by far the most prominent of the spices known as "flower spices."
Just before the buds blossom, they turn pink, at which point they must be harvested immediately. One tree yields about a seven-pound harvest. The flavour of the clove is rich, sweet and sultry. The high percentage of eugenol will produce a numbing effect if you put a whole clove in your mouth. In fact, before modern anaesthetics, dentists often prescribed that their patients with toothaches pack cloves around the infected area to numb the pain.
In Indonesia, where cloves grow freely, great amounts of cloves are also imported for their use in Kretek cigarettes, which are a blend of tobacco and ground cloves. In France, an ingredient crucial to any stock is a whole onion studded with cloves. In the USA cloves are primarily used to stud ham or pork roast. Ground cloves are used in desserts, cakes, pies, custards, and liqueurs. Cloves can also be used to make lovely, long-lasting scented pomander balls.
Although cloves are now grown around the world, originally cloves were native only to a handful of tiny islands near Indonesia. At the height of the Age of Exploration, European nations fought each other for control of these Spice Islands, the only place in the world to get precious cloves and nutmeg.