Cloves are one of the most pungent and unique spices. The Dutch held a monopoly over production and trade of the spice, native to the North Moluccas (Indonesia), up until the 18th century.
Clove trees are sensitive tropical evergreen trees from the myrtle family. They grow up to 15 meters in height and at the end of each small branch small crimson flowers grow in triple clusters. Harvesting is first done when a tree reaches six to eight years of age and continues for 50 years, although each tree usually only delivers one bumper crop in four years. Rough handling during harvest will mean diminishing yields later and, thus, the trees are handled with extreme care. The Scottish anthropologist James Frazer, in his 1890 publication, “The Golden Bough -- A Study in Magic and Religion,” wrote: “When the clove trees are in blossom, they are treated like pregnant women. No noise may be made near them; no light, no fire may be carried past them at night; no one may approach them with his hat on, all must uncover in their presence. These precautions are observed lest the tree should be alarmed and bear no fruit, or should drop its fruit too soon.”
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