Oranges with Cloves for Christmas Decorations

The smell of oranges and cloves has always signified the Christmas season. Ever since I can remember my mom has pressed whole dried cloves into oranges and hung them around the house. I’ve certainly inherited my craftiness from her and this year I have decided to mark the start of the holidays not with a Christmas tree or holiday tunes, but rather oranges with cloves. The nice bright oranges we have here in Costa Rica are imported from Chile, so we have to use those otherwise we’ll have greenish oranges, which would smell the same I imagine, but be less festive.

According to Wikipedia, cloves come from a tree native to Indonesia and are actually the aromatic flowers that are dried and ground for cooking. We call it a ‘clove’ in English based on the Latin work ‘clavus’, which means nail. I can only imagine this is because of it’s unique shape with a long stem and rounded top. Come to find out, these oranges with cloves are a European tradition based on their affinity for ‘pomanders’, which are round potpourri balls.

When finding the right place to put your oranges, keep in mind that while they are strong, they are best used in small places like half bathrooms or small full baths. This allows the fragrance to fill the room without being overpowered by other household odors and brisk airflow. You can hang them or place them in a bowl, but don’t worry about the oranges rotting. They tend to just dry out over time so they can be out for several weeks leading up to the holiday season.

There are many designs that you can do to make each orange with cloves unique. There is a classic design of a ring around the circumference or even a double or triple ring that makes for a nice robust clove aroma. This year I played around with swirls, but even zig zags, Christmas trees, holly or anything you can dream up would work.

Pre-poking holes are a good way to start a design and make corrections if needed. You should space the cloves just far enough apart to where the tops of the cloves have a small space between them, but if they are too far apart it will be hard to see the design. For pre-making the holes, a metal/bamboo skewer or a toothpick works great. Anything with a semi-sharp point will do the trick. Poke about a half a centimeter or a quarter inch into the rind but not too far to pierce the juicy fruit inside.

When choosing a ribbon or string to hang the oranges after they’ve been cloved, it’s best to choose something sturdy that will match your holiday decor. I used a thin white ribbon and wrapped it like a gift. Starting with the center of the ribbon on the eye of the orange, I wrapped it down to the other side and brought the ribbon back up to the opposite side and tied a knot. With the excess, I tied a loop and made a bow to make it easy to hang.

I hope you enjoy the smell of oranges and cloves as much as I do for the holiday season. Feel free to comment with a link to some pictures of your little pieces of fragrant art.

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