The clove tree is a 8-10m (25-33ft), tropical evergreen tree. Clove flower buds change over 5-6 months from green to pinkish-red, then are picked and sun dried for 4-5 days. The buds are quite waxy and both the flowers and leaves are very similar to an Australian gum tree, showing their Myrtaceae connection. As the buds dry, they turn brownish-black and create a volatile oil called eugenol (also found in basil), which makes it a wonderfully aromatic spice for cooking and also a strong natural anaesthetic and antiseptic.
Germination takes about 6 weeks and the seedlings are very delicate and slow growing. Don’t even think about potting them up until they’re about 25cm (9in) high, which may take up to 6 months! Some growers recommend letting the growing medium dry out the day before transplanting to try to keep the small, fragile root ball intact. Grow them on in the shade for another 18 months before planting in the garden. Cloves could potentially be grafted onto compatible Myrtaceae plants but this has not been commercially explored.
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