Good-looking, fragrant, and versatile – what’s not to love? Because of bay leaf, we have tasty food from different cuisines around the world, from Dhal to beef stew, lamb tagine, and beef curry, to name a few. It does not only make our food taste great, but it also provides us tea to help us relax and at the same time improve our physical well-being. From bay leaves, we extract oil which we use to treat our skin problems and bruises. If we plant bay leaf plants – which is also great for decorating the landscape – around the house, it doesn’t only make the air smell nice, it also keeps insects away!
Species: L. nobilis
Binomial Name: Laurus nobilis
Bay Leaves Trivia
- Food cooked with bay leaf smells good. However, some insects dislike the smell of bay leaf.
- Bay leaf is used in the ancient practice of curing people stung by bees and wasp.
- A Dallas Morning News feature described bay leaf as a “Texas-tough plant”.
- There is an ancient belief that bay leaves can protect you from a lightning strike and other natural disasters.
- The California laurel can cause headaches; hence its more sinister nickname “headache tree”.
- Putting a bay leaf under the pillow will give the sleeping person visions of the future.
Bay Leaves Buying Guide
Bay leaf sold in commercial outlets (supermarkets, stores, online, etc.) vary. It is important to know which one you need or prefer. This is important because you don’t want a surplus of bay leaves since it loses its aroma over time. It is ideal to occasionally buy small quantities of freshly dried bay leaves since this is never out of season and available all year long.
- Dried leaves – This is the most common bay leaf product sold commercially. Dried bay leaves are sold in a resealable plastic pack or an aluminum foil pack or a jar or small spice bottle. You can buy in bulk if you need it for your restaurant business or you can buy in smaller quantities as needed.
- Powdered – You can buy dried bay leaves in powder form. Some recipes are very particular in the use of bay leaf in powder form.
- Fresh Cut – Some local vendors harvest and sell fresh cut bay leaves and offer to sell these either in bulk or smaller quantities.
- Potted plant – You can buy a bay leaf plant sold in pots or plastic seedling bags. This is ideal for those planning on growing their bay leaf plant to add to their herb garden.
Moreover, it is also important to know the different kinds of bay leaf before you buy one.
- Indian Bay Leaf, or Tej Patta – used primarily for Indian cuisine.
- Bay Laurel, a.k.a. sweet bay – Have you heard about the symbolic laurel leaf worn by people who earn high praise for exemplary work? It is made out of sweet bay.
- California bay leaf – the oil from this type of bay leaf is used to create hair tonic as well as aftershave oil. This is native to the Northwestern U.S. Coast Range.
- Indonesia bay leaf, a.k.a. Salam leaf a.k.a. Balinese bay leaf – produces the faintest scent of all bay leaf types but can produce flavor when treated with heat.
- West Indian bay leaf – a popular choice when preparing food inspired by Caribbean cuisine.
- Mexican bay leaf – This plant is native to Mexico which explains why many Mexican dishes are seasoned using this particular type of bay leaf.
Bay Leaves Production & Farming in Texas
Bay leaf is cultivated in the southern United States. Harvest and storage of bay leaf happen year-round. Some are sold fresh cut while part of the harvest is dried and stored.
Texas is a source of a wide variety of bay leaf owing to the large number of bay leaf trees found here from which the leaves are harvested from, particularly in Houston where it is common to find sweet bay. These trees thrive in moist shaded areas.
- Dried bay leaves are sold in a variety of packaging:
- Spice jar or spice bottle
- Resealable plastic package
- Resealable aluminum foil package
- Single-use disposable plastic packet
Enjoying Bay Leaves
Bay leaf is used in cooking for its flavor, but bay leaf should not be eaten. Make sure to remove it before serving the food cooked with bay leaf. Ingesting bay leaves may cause intestinal problems. It can also cause choking and potentially cut your tongue. Pregnant women are discouraged from eating too much bay leaf because it may induce abortion.
The ideal storage for dried bay leaves is somewhere cool, dry, and dark. In these conditions, dried bay leaves have a shelf life of up to two years. If you have a spice drawer or spice cabinet, this is the best storage for your bay leaf.
Bay leaf is a key component of many popular dishes because of its quality of creating a warm aroma.
It is an aromatic condiment used for making soup, cooking meat dishes as well as seafood dishes, making bread like the bay leaf scented spoon rolls, and cakes like the bay leaf pound cake. It is used to make cream. It is used when marinating, poaching, or steaming.
Bay leaves provide vitamin A, iron, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Fresh bay leaves are rich in vitamin C and folic acid. Bay leaves have astringent, diuretic, and appetite stimulant properties.