Clove, the dried, unopened flower bud of an aromatic tropical tree. The taste and scent of cloves are due to a volatile oil, obtained commercially by a water-distillation process. This oil, known as oil of cloves, is a transparent or slightly yellow liquid, soluble in alcohol or ether. The oil is used in cooking as a seasoning. It is also an ingredient of some liqueurs, perfumes, and artificial vanilla. In medicine, it is used to relieve toothache and nausea.
The clove tree is an evergreen that grows to a height of 40 feet (12 m). It has thick, large, oval leaves and smooth gray bark. The flowers grow in clusters. The flower buds change from pale to darker green and then to a deep red. At this stage they are picked and dried, becoming a deep brown. They are very aromatic, and are used as a spice, either whole or ground.
The tree is native to the Moluccas, or Spice Islands, in Indonesia. It is grown on the coast of southeastern Asia and in eastern Africa, Brazil, and the West Indies. Three islands in the Indian Ocean—Zanzibar, Pemba, and Madagascar—furnish most of the world's supply.
The clove tree is Eugenia aromatica of the family Myrtaceae.