Cloves, a celebrated spice of the Molucca islands, so called from the resemblance to small nails, and designated in all countries wherever known and used by a term having this signification (Port, cravos, Span, clavos, from Lat. clavus, a nail). The clove of commerce is the product of the largest and most elegant of the myrtle family, the caryopliillus aromaticus of Linnaeus, and is described by Rumpf, in his Hortus Amboynensis, as "the most beautiful, the most elegant, and the most precious of all known trees." In its native soil, which is confined to the islets Ternate, Tidor, Mortir, Makian, and Batshian, on the west of Gilolo, the true and original Moluccas, this tree grows to a height of 40 ft., begins to bear the spice blooms in its seventh year, and attains to an age varying between 100 and 200 years. The trunk is perfectly straight, the bark smooth and of a light olive color; about half the height the branches spring out horizontally and thickly, diminishing in length as they ascend, so that the compact mass of foliage, composed of slender laurel-shaped leaves, forms a perfect cone, supported by a clean straight stem.
The spice is not the fruit, as is very commonly supposed, but the blossom, which is gathered before it is quite unfolded, when it resembles a closed-up convolvulus bloom. About a dozen of these blooms form a terminal cluster at the extremity of each twig and branch of the tree. The stem of the spice is the calyx, and the head the unblown corolla of these aromatic flower buds. The best season for collection in the Moluccas is in December; they are gathered quickly and carefully, and speedily dried in the shade before they have an opportunity to exhale the strength of their aroma. - When the Portuguese and Spaniards first visited the Moluccas, and when Magalhaens's ship, the Victoria, took on board at Tidor, in 1521, the first cargo of spices that was brought to Europe, the Molucca islands were cultivated by a numerous, enterprising, and industrious population, for the almost exclusive production of their great staple. Malacca was the chief emporium of the trade in cloves, from whence they were carried by various transits to every part of the then civilized world. The Portuguese held the spice islands for 93 years, restricting the culture, and preventing the free exportation of the article.
When the Dutch drove the Portuguese from the Moluccas in the beginning of the 17th century, they established the clove culture in Amboyna, where it had been partially introduced by the natives prior to the Portuguese conquest. Then commenced the process of extirpation of every clove tree that grew upon the islands which were their natural home. Every year an expedition was senttoTernate, Tidor, Mortir, Makian, and Bat-shian, to cut down every clove bush which migratory birds might chance to plant in the native soil; and every native was punished with death who was known to plant a clove tree or sell one pound of its spice blossoms. When the forests were destroyed, the fertile volcanic soil was washed away by tropic rains and burned up by a tropic sun; the land became barren, and the people, who had lost their trade and their subsistence, perished of starvation at home, or as slaves in the plantations of Amboyna. Not only were the clove trees of the other Molucca islands destroyed, but also a large portion of the product of Amboyna was annually burned, in order to enhance the value of what remained in the hands of the monopolists.
These annual burnings were continued till 1824. The clove tree in Amboyna falls far short in duration and productiveness when compared with the tree in its native region. In Amboyna it does not begin to bear spice till its 15th year, and its duration is not more than 70 years. It is raised still less advantageously at other points where its culture has been introduced, at Bencoolen in Sumatra, in the Straits settlements, at Zanzibar, and in the French islands of Reunion (formerly Bourbon) and Cayenne. The three varieties mentioned in commerce are those of Amboyna, Bourbon, and Cayenne. The clove thus far has defied all efforts, skill, and care to rear it in the same perfection to which it attains in its native soil. It requires tropic heat, a mountain declivity, with loose, dry, volcanic soil, and a frequent overshadowing of vapory clouds; all of which circumstances are only found combined in the Moluccas. - Cloves are sometimes used in substance as a stimulant to the digestive organs, but the oil is usually employed, chiefly as a corrigent to medicines. It may be used, in the same way as creosote or carbolic acid, to relieve the pain of a carious tooth. Oil of cloves is useful in microscopy for rendering transparent thin sections of tissues which have been soaked in alcohol.
Nitric acid gives with oil of cloves a deep red color, similar to that produced by the action of the same reagent on morphia. In the latter case, however, but not in the former, the red is followed by a yellow. A tablespoonful of the infusion of cloves, given every hour or two, will sometimes relieve the vomiting of pregnancy; but it should not be administered if any inflammation of the stomach is present. The pungent sensation in the mouth produced by chewing cloves is strong enough to obliterate momen-tarily the taste. Advantage may be taken of this action in the administration of disagreeable medicine. For instance, the taste of cod liver oil will not be recognized if swallowed directly after chewing cloves.