Simply Organic Bay Leaf Description
Bay leaf is an evergreen related to camphor and sassafras trees. It's also known as sweet bay and laurel. Enjoy its sweet, balsamic scent and bitter/spicy bite in gravies and grain dishes, with beans and meats, and in cooking blends like bouquet garni.
Botanical name: Laurus nobilis L.
Several unrelated plants with similar names are often confused with true bay, but you won't want to substitute them. Cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus), for example, produces leaves with a bitter almond flavor, which can be poisonous. West Indian bay (Pimenta racemosa is a relative of allspice. Its oil is sold as oil of bay and is used to make bay rum. Bayberry ( Myrica pensylvanica ) is a North American shrub; its fruit is a source of candle wax. One plant that can be substituted is California bay (Umbellularia californica), which grows in the Western U.S.
With its roots deep in Greek mythology and the first Olympics, the bay leaf is a noble herb. Bay has long signified success and renown. The champions of the first Olympic games in 776 B.C. were awarded bay garlands, and wreaths of bay were used to crown kings, priests, poets, prophets, heroes and victors of athletic and scholarly contests in Greece and Rome. Our word "baccalaureate" means laurel berries, an honorarium given to ancient scholars upon completion of their studies, and the distinction "poet laureate" comes from the reference to Apollo, patron of the fine arts who had a special affinity for the laurel tree. In fact, bay trees in Greece are still sometimes called Daphne trees because, legend has it, Apollo wore a wreath of bay leaves on his head in remembrance of his beloved Daphne, whom the gods turned into a bay laurel tree.
Native to Asia Minor and the Mediterranean area, bay trees are cultivated in France, Spain, Italy, Morocco, Yugoslavia, China, Israel, Turkey and Russia.
Add one or two leaves are adequate flavoring for most dishes of six servings--add to water when stewing chicken or poaching fish, or while cooking soups, stews, or gravies. Bay leaf should be added early on, because it takes a while for its flavor to permeate the food. And be sure to remove the leaves before serving; they're sharp and can be dangerous if accidentally swallowed.
Bay perks up tomato sauces, pickles, meats, fish, and bean and grain dishes. It's a key ingredient in French and Mediterranean dishes, including French bouillabaisse and bouquet garni. Many cooks add several bay leaves to containers of stored grains and beans to repel grain beetles, and some homemakers add them to boxes of stored clothing to repel moths. Crafters sometimes use the leaves in potpourris and wreaths.
If your bay leaves have turned grey, it's because they've lost their chlorophyll during storage. Replace them with fresh leaves, and store the new batch in airtight containers, away from light.
Organic Bay Leaf
View All Simply Organic
View All Grocery > Organic Spices