schwebende Nelken

Cloves add an aromatic, sweet, warming flavor to sweet and savory dishes. The name of this flower bud comes from the old French for “nail” due to its shape.

liegende Nelken

Cloves as a Spice

Besides their extremely aromatic and sweet, mildly warming and bitter flavor, cloves have a slight numbing effect on your mouth. They come from the Moluccas, the same Indonesian archipelago as nutmeg — they’re not known as the “Spice Islands” for nothing! In the past, cloves were more commonly found in medicine than in the kitchen. Their intense aroma was thought to help with bad breath, and even today clove oil is found in many mouth washes and toothpastes. Clove gets its name from its shape — it comes from the Old French clou de girofle, which means nail of gillyflower.

Aufschneiden von Rotkrautauf einem Teller angerichtetes Rotkraut mit Kartoffeln


Cuisines around the world use cloves in dishes of all kinds. Their flavor really compliments exotic spices like pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon and star anise. In Europe, cloves are more often used in sweet dishes such as compotes and cookies, but the spice’s sweet, aromatic flavor is also added to stews, roasts and mulled wine. Ground cloves are found in many Asian seasoning mixes. Cloves should be used sparingly as their distinct flavor and heat do not diminish when cooked. Whole cloves are usually removed before serving.


A delicious way to use cloves: Stick 1 or 2 bay leaves and 6 to 12 cloves into a peeled onion for a great way to add flavor to rice and meat dishes.

Nelkenbaum mit Knospen
Ursprungsgebiet von Nelken auf der Weltkarte: Indonesien

The Plant

The clove tree is an evergreen tree in the myrtle family. Today, it is mainly grown in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Grenada, Tanzania and Zanzibar. It grows to up to 20 meters tall, produces yellow/white flowers and has aromatic, oval-shaped leaves. The pink flower buds on the tree are used as a spice: Before they flower, they are harvested by hand in a time-consuming process and are then dried. They lose around three quarters of their weight as they dry out. In their native country of Indonesia, cloves are rarely used as a culinary herb — instead, they are crushed and smoked in cigarettes.


Scientific Name
Syzygium aromaticum
Myrtle family (Myrtaceae)
Other Names
Clove tree

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