These small, dried flower buds are native to Indonesia and can be used in anything from drinks to sweet and savoury dishes. You'll most likely come across them at Christmas, when they are used to add a warm, pungent flavour to ham and mulled wine. They're also a vital part of spice mixes like Chinese Five Spice and Garam Masala.
All year round.
Whole cloves look like small nails, and are reddish brown in colour. If you rub them between your fingers, good quality cloves will release a little oil. Try to use whole cloves where possible, they retain their flavour for longer and you'll need less, as they deliver a stronger hit of spice.
Cloves can be bought whole or ground. You can make your own ground cloves, by grinding them in a mortar and pestle or small coffee grinder. Otherwise simply add a few whole cloves to your dish and discard after cooking.
In a cool, dry place.
The strong flavor means you can use cloves sparingly. Press a few cloves into a whole onion and add to a stew or soup, it goes well with beef or game and are great when matched with a roast gammon. They also go well with fruit, particularly apples, so use ground cloves to spice up an apple crumble.