BOTANICAL NAME: Laurus nobitis
FAMILY NAME: Lauraceae
OTHER NAMES: bay laurel, Apollo's bay leaf, Indian bay, wreath laurel; kr. feuille de laurier;
The bay is a tree of the sun under the celestial sign of Leo. Culpeper, the herbalist, regarded bay as a source of preelection against 'all the evils of old Satan to the body of man, and they are not a few. Parkinson, a 7th century botanist, was full of praise for the virtues of the hay: 'The hay leaves are of a necessary use as any other in the garden or orchard, for they serve both for pleasure and profit, both for ornament and for use, both for honest civil uses, yea, both for the sick and the sound, both for the living and the dead; ...so that from the cradle to the grave we still have use of it, we stilt have need of it bay leaves were fashioned into laurel crowns to be worn by emperors and heroes in ancient Rome as a sign of great honour, and superstition indicated that the bay also gave protection from lightning. Today, the Grand Prix winner is decked with a laurel wreath and the poet of the British Royal House-hold is still given the title of poet laureate after the laurel wreath awarded to Greek and Roman poets.
The bay tree is native to Asia Minor, but spread to all parts of the Mediterranean in ancient times. The flowers, yellow or greenish white, are not very obvious and they produce a dark-purple, one-seeded berry.
The true bay tree must not be confused with the cherry laurel, Prunus lauro-cerasus, which hears poisonous leaves, or the Caribbean bay Pimenla acris, the leaves of which are used to make bay rum.
Bay trees can grow to over 15 metres/50 feet in height, but they are most often pruned into neat bushes. They are often pruned into ornamental shapes or cultivated as standard bushes.
Bay leaves add u warm pungent flavour to grilled or barbecued kebabs. Push one or two leaves on to each skewer between the chunk of meat.
The leaves give off a pungent and warm bouquet and flavour when broken and added to a dish. When slightly willed, they are strongly aromatic, so they should be used sparingly. Bay can be purchased as fresh or dried whole leaves or ground, but the latter rapidly loses its flavour.
The leaves should be picked and dried slowly, away from direct sunlight, in order to retain the volatile oils. If left on the branch, the leaves will curl attractively but, if they are to be stored in a jar or container, they should be dried between two sheets of paper to keep them flat.
Pack and store away from strong light. The glossy, dark green leaves can be used fresh or dried, but are best after being allowed to wilt for a few days when their bitterness has gone but the leaves still retain their scent.
Freeze Dried Bay Leaves
Dried Crushed Bay Leaves
Dried Ground Bay Leaves
Fresh Bay Leaf
Dried Bay Leaves
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Medicinally, the properties of the bay leaf and berries are legendary: it has astringent, diuretic and digestive qualities, and is an appetite stimulant. The acid from the leaves is supposed to discourage moths. The bay oil from the West Indian bay tree is used in perfumery and in the production of bay rum.