A Haitian Treasure: Jirof (Clove)

Cloves (Syzygium aromaticum), coming from the Latin word for 'nail' clovus, are the dried, immature, and unopened aromatic flower buds of a tropical tree, native to Eastern Asia.  Cloves are cultivated mostly in Brazil, the West Indies (including Haiti), Tanzania, Madagscar and India. When fresh, they are pink, and turn to a dark rust-brown color when dried. Cloves are known for having a distinctly strong flavour, making them particularly popular in certain types of cuisine, like the delicious Haitian Cuisine.  In Haitian Kreyol, cloves are known as jirof or jiwof and in French as girofles. Cloves have great historical significance and have been important to so many cultures for thousands of years. Clove is more popular than you might know. Do you like chai tea? Well, one of the main ingredients in chai tea is clove. Did you use glue in kindergarten? Clove oil. In the Middle East, crushed cloves are used to manufacture special clove cigarettes called kretek. Are you Haitian too? Asides from culinary uses, Haitians use jirof as a form of traditional medicine as well. Jirof can be boiled to make a tea that is especially good at relieving stomach pain.

Clove is one of the most common spices used in Haitian cuisine. Because cloves are so potent, only a few pieces are needed to give mega flavor to a dish. Cloves blend beautifully with a variety of herbs and spices which is another reason why they are so popular. Cloves are in all of your quintessential Haitian treats. like diri ak djon djon, jambon, mayi moulen, griyo, kremas etc. As a kid, I remember accidentally biting on cloves in these different dishes and literally crying with frustration because it tasted so bad. I'm sure all Haitian kids have had this experience. It's quite inevitable actually.  My cousins and I used to try and pick them out before eating any of our grandma's dishes because we knew they had to be in there somewhere!
Pickliz (Haitian coleslaw)
Mayi Moulen (cornmeal)
Some benefits:
  • In many traditional healing systems, cloves are believed to increase heat in the body's system, which is useful for stimulating the digestive tract
  • Good source of dietary fiber, Vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, and omega- 3 fatty acids
  • is one of the most popular substances in toothpaste, laxative pills and local anesthetics (Clovacaine)
  • can be a natural tooth filling when mixed with zinc oxide, under proper dental guidance
  • can be used to treat minor respiratory ailments
  • can relieve toothaches and decrease infections in the teeth due to its antiseptic properties
  • can reduce blood sugar levels
  • can freshen breathe when chewed
  • natural anti-oxidant, anti-histamine and anti-microbial
  • historical aphrodisiac
Suggested uses
  • as a pain-killer
  • as an anti-parasitic
  • as aromatherapy
  • can be applied topically as an oil or cream for hypotonic muscles
  • popular seasoning
  • used to preserve food
  • used in perfume
  • can be made into tea and liquor
In health,
Dr. Naika

The "Haitian Treasures" series was created by Dr. Naika in 2012. This series explores the magnificent benefits and uses of Haiti's natural resources, which Dr. Naika calls "Haitian Treasures". In this series, Dr. Naika explores the tie between Haiti's natural resources and natural, traditional, and holistic healing.

This blog post was originally posted on Dr. Naika's lifestyle blog, Naika in Balance. Dr. Naika's work is copyrighted. Please do not copy or repost Dr. Naika's work without citing her content as the original source.