Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Cloves
CLOVES are the unexpanded flower-buds of Caryophyllus aromaticus, a tree belonging to the natural order M i/rtacece. They are so named from the French word clou, on account of their resemblance to a nail. The clove tree is a beauti ful evergreen which grows to a height of from 30 to 40 feet, having large oblong leaves and crimson flowers in numerous groups of terminal cymes. The flower-buds are at first of a pale colour and gradually become green, after which they develop into a bright red, when they are ready for collscting. Cloves are rather more than half an inch in length, and consist of a long cylindrical calyx, terminating in four spreading sepals, and four unopened petals which form a small ball in the centre. The tree is a native of the small group of islands in the Indian Archipelago called the Moluccas, or Spice Islands ; but it was long cultivated by the Dutch in Amboyna and two or three small neighbouring islands. Cloves were one of the principal Oriental spices which early excited the cupidity of Western commercial communities, having been the basis of a rich and lucrative trade from an early part of the Christian era. The Portuguese, by doubling the Cape of Good Hope, obtained possession of the principal portion of the clove trade, which they continued to hold for nearly a century, when, in 1605, they were expelled from the Moluccas by the Dutch. That power exerted great and inhuman efforts to obtain a complete monopoly of the trade, attempting to extirpate all the clove trees growing in their native islands, and to concentrate the whole pro duction in the Amboyna Islands. With great difficulty the French succeeded in introducing the clove tree into Mauritius in the year 1770; subsequently the cultivation was introduced into Guiana, and at the end of the century the trees were planted at Zanzibar. The chief commercial sources of supply are now Zanzibar and its neighbouring island Pemba on the East African coast, and Amboyna, Cloves are also grown in Java, Sumatra, Reunion, Guiana, and the West India Islands.
Cloves as they come into the market have a deep brown colour, a powerfully fragrant odour, and a taste too hot and acrid to be pleasant. When pressed with the nail they exude a volatile oil with which they are charged to the unusual proportion of about 18 per cent. The oil is obtained as a commercial product by submitting the clovea with water to repeated distillation. It is, when new and properly prepared, a pale yellow or almost colourless fluid, becoming after some time of a brown colour ; and it possesses the odour and taste peculiar to cloves. The essential oil of cloves is a mixture of two oils one a hydrocarbon isomeric with oil of turpentine, and the othei an oxygenated oil, eugenol or eugenic acid, which possesses the taste and odour of cloves. Cloves are employed principally as a condiment in culinary operations, in con fectionery, and in the preparation of liqueurs. In medicine they are tonic and carminative, but they are little used except as adjuncts to other substances on account of their flavour, or with purgatives to prevent nausea and griping. The essential oil forms a convenient medium for using cloves for flavouring or medicinal purposes, and it also is frequently employed to relieve toothache.