Every time I open the container in which I keep most of my dried spices, the scent of cloves is overwhelming. I have a long, multistrand "necklace" of them, given to me a few years ago at a shop in Istanbul, Turkey, where my husband and I had made a purchase. As much as I cook, I'll never make it through the entire necklace, because cloves are powerfully strong and aromatic, despite their small size. Cloves are the immature flower bud of a tree in the myrtle family. They're used, whole or ground, in sweet and savoury dishes, to which they add a warm, intense flavour; if you bite into one, though, they numb the tongue. They're also used in cigarettes, essential oils and holistic medicine, where they're said to work as an antioxidant and antiseptic, help relieve toothache, stimulate the senses and alleviate tension. When I make lamb or beef tagine, I put whole cloves, cinnamon stick and peppercorns in a spice bag (so I can remove them easily at the end) and simmer them along with other ingredients such as onion, garlic and preserved lemon. I like to mix in a small amount of ground cloves to fruitcake and mincemeat, and I decorate pineapple tarts by putting a whole clove on top of each one, although I warn my guests not to eat them.