Bay leaf has a floral and herbal aroma reminiscent of oregano and thyme and is used more often than any other herb.
Read about its health effects, including advice and tips on how to grow it in the comfort of your home!
You will learn which recipes to add it to, but also what to watch out for.
What is a bay leaf?
Bay leaves come from the laurel plant, an evergreen shrub that grows in warm climates. The plants are grown for ornamental purposes, the leaves are dried and used in cooking.
The plant has thick, elongated and leathery leaves with pointed ends.
Types of bay leaves
Bay leaves have a long history, originating as a decorative symbol of honor and success and worn by Roman and Greek emperors, as well as Olympians, scholars, heroes and poets.
There are two main varieties: Turkish (or Mediterranean) and California bay leaves.
The Turkish variety is the most common, and has a milder flavor compared to California bay leaves, which have a stronger aroma and slightly minty flavor.
They are distinguished by the shape of the leaf, where the Turkish variety has short and thick leaves compared to the thinner and longer ones of the Californian variety.
Other varieties of bay leaf are used around the world, including West Indian bay leaf and Indonesian bay leaf.
There are also several types of bay leaves that are poisonous, namely cherry laurel and mountain laurel, but these varieties are not sold as herbs
Fresh vs. dried bay leaf
Fresh bay leaves are glossy green on top and lighter on the underside. As the leaves dry, the color becomes uniform and muted.
Fresh bay leaves are often much more expensive and do not last as long as dried bay leaves.
Adding a fresh bay leaf to a recipe could overpower the flavor of the dish, so dried Turkish bay leaves are often preferred.
How does it taste?
Since bay leaves are not eaten, the flavor is more about what they add to the recipe.
Many cooks believe that bay leaf adds no flavor at all, while others say that the herb adds a subtle depth to the flavor.
So, while bay leaves don’t add overwhelming, bold flavors, they can be considered a spice that supports other spices in a recipe to enhance their flavor.
Health effects of bay leaf
Treatment of diabetes
If you are at risk of developing diabetes or have already developed the condition, eating bay leaves can lower your sugar levels and is effective in treating type 2 diabetes. Along with this, it can also lower bad cholesterol levels.
Bay leaf prevents damage to the stomach and promotes urination. This helps release toxins in the body and aids kidney health. In addition, organic compounds very effectively help with an irritated stomach, soothe the irritable bowel syndrome.
Treats respiratory problems
Bay leaf is also a source of essential oil. The essential oil extracted from this leaf can be used to relieve various respiratory problems.
Fights fungal infections
Bay leaf has been shown to have anti-fungal properties, these properties along with the vitamin C content can protect the skin from any infection and irritation.
It helps reduce stress and anxiety
The presence of linalool in bay leaves can reduce stress and anxiety levels in the body. It also has natural calming properties that can help you calm down and can also reduce the risk of depression.
It protects the heart
The heart tends to work better thanks to rutin and caffeic acid, both of which are found in bay leaves. These properties can strengthen the walls of heart vessels and help in reducing the level of bad cholesterol.
How to grow a bay leaf
- Bay leaf plants are tolerant of most soil types. The ideal PH range is 6-7, but the plant is somewhat versatile and will tolerate a PH range of 4.5 to 8.3.
- What it does not tolerate is soil that drains poorly. Applying compost or other organic matter will help keep the soil well-drained.
- Bay leaf seedlings can be grown indoors in pots and outdoors as shrubs and trees. It is a slow-growing plant and can reach a height of 17 m under suitable conditions.
- Potted plants will not grow to this large size if you prune them enough.
- The plant grows best in full sun to partial shade. If you grow it outside in a hot climate, it will benefit from afternoon shade.
- If you grow the plant indoors, it will need bright light and occasional shade.
- Trees grown outdoors generally don’t need much fertilizer, but potted plants will benefit from a balanced organic fertilizer.
- It is very sensitive to frost in colder areas, but can be grown in a pot and brought indoors for the winter or kept indoors where extreme cold won’t kill it.
- Bay leaf can be used whole or crushed in cooking. Harvest leaves from plants that are at least 2 years old. Ripe bay leaves have more flavor.
- To dry the leaves, place them in a single layer on parchment paper on a large tray. Leave them in a warm dry room for 2 weeks.
- Store bay leaves whole in an airtight container.
Another use of bay leaves
Besides being used in recipes, they are also used in other ways. Laurel extract is even used as a treatment for open wounds.
Bay leaves and extracts are often used in massage and aromatherapy to provide some relief from the symptoms of arthritis and high blood pressure.
What is bay leaf used for?
|They are added to sauces or added to the liquid from stewing meat and vegetables|
|They are added to stuffings or meat rolls, such as these recipes for Záhorák rolls|
|It can be added to the water in which the rice is cooked|
|They are added to broths and soups, and you can also find it in these recipes for poultry kaldoun|
|Or it is crushed and used like any other spice|
|It’s a common ingredient in various pickles, such as for pickling these ram’s horns|
Bay leaf tea recipe
- 4-5 dried bay leaves
- 1 cinnamon stick (or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon)
- 1 liter of water
- Add the leaves and cinnamon to the water and boil for about 20 minutes. For a weaker infusion, chop fresh or dry leaves, cover with hot water and leave to infuse.
How to store bay leaves?
Fresh bay leaves can be placed in a zip-lock bag and stored in the fridge, where they will keep for a week or two. Dried bay leaves can be stored in a sealed container in a cool, dry, dark place such as a spice cabinet or pantry; it lasts up to two years before losing its aroma.