BAY LEAF (Laurus Nobilis)

BAY LEAF - extracted from Patricia G. Solley's pages

This evergreen shrub, native to the Mediterranean region, symbolized victory and merit to the ancients. Romans named it lauris, from laudere, to praise; accordingly it was sacred to Apollo and its leaves were used to crown the brows of poets.

Its name "bay"--from the Anglo-Saxon--also means "crown," and Nicholas Culpepper testified in 1653 to its curative powers in his Herbal, "Neither witch nor devil, thunder nor lightning will hurt a man where a bay tree is."

Today these shiny oblate leaves flavor soups and sauces. They are rarely marketed fresh; in dried form, the flavor of short, oval Turkish bays are considered more subtle than their long, narrow brethren from California.

BAY LEAF - extracted from the book

His folksy name is "albertlevél", "szagos levél", "illatfa" in Hungary.

Native to Asia Minor, this tree or shrub is wide-spread on the Mediterranean Sea's coastline, the drug is his leaves. The fruit is not used in Hungary. The scent of the leaves is very characteristic, spicy, and the flavour is the same.

(SWEET) BAY LEAF, SWEET LAUREL extracted from the pages of Gernot Katzer


Probably Asia Minor. Today, the laurel tree grows all over the Mediterranean. Turkey is one of the main exporters.

Bay leaves were considered holy and associated with Apollo in the classic Greek era. Although the winners of the famous Olympic games, held every four years beginning in 776 in Olympia in honour of Zeus, were originally decorated with a wreath of olive twigs, the later use of laurel wreaths is more known today. The change from olive to laurel was due to the influence of the Pythian Games, which were conducted in honour of Apollo in Delphi (Southern Greece), starting 582. Within a decade after opening the Pythian Games to all Greeks, two more festivals arose which were, in contrast, held every second year.

Much later, the Roman Emperors made of the laurel wreath as a symbol of the god Apollo; furthermore, bay leaves were a popular spice in Roman cookery.

Today, bay leaves are a rather common flavouring in all Western countries; they are used for soups, stews, sauces, pickles and sausages; several fish dishes profit greatly from bay leaves. In contrast to the majority of leave spices, bay leaves can be cooked for several time without much aroma loss. Fresh or dried bay leaves frequently show up in bouquet garni.

Fresh bay leaves are very strongly aromatic, but also quite bitter; by an appropriate drying procedure, bitterness is significantly reduced without dramatical loss of aroma: After manual plucking and sorting, the leaves are quickly dried without exposure to sunlight. High-quality bay leaves are easily recognized not only by their strong aroma, but also by their bright green colour.

A rule of thumb holds: The greener the colour, the better the quality. Bay leaves cannot, however, be stored as long as their tough texture might suggest, but should not be kept more than one year after plucking. Overaged leaves have lost their fragrance, show a brownish hue and taste mostly bitter.

The laurel fruits are less known, although they appear as part of commercial spice mixtures. Because of their robust taste, they fit best to tasty sauces and gravies; I like them most for potatoes. They are very good for venison (together with juniper).

Because of the popularity of bay leaves in the West, many exotic leaf spices are commonly known as "bay leaves", though not botanically nor culinarily related. Among these are the leaves of a cinnamon relative (Indian bay leaf), the leaves of the allspice tree (West Indian bay leaf) and the so-called Indonesian bay leaf; the latter two both stem from trees of the myrtle family. Another spice, boldo leaves, is distantly related to bay leaves; its taste resembles laurel, but is significantly stronger.

Bayleaves - extracted from the pages of One Planet -

Also called LAUREL LEAF, leaf of the sweet bay tree, Laurus nobilis, an evergreen of the family Lauraceae, indigenous to countries bordering the Mediterranean. They have a woody, astringent flavor with a pleasant, slightly minty aroma. Bay leaves are imported primarily from Turkey. A popular spice used in pickling and marinating and to flavour stews, stuffings, and fish, bay leaves are delicately fragrant but have a bitter taste. They contain approximately 2 percent essential oil, the principal component of which is cineole. The smooth and lustrous dried bay leaves are usually used whole and then removed from the dish after cooking; they are sometimes marketed in powdered form. Bay has been cultivated from ancient times; its leaves constituted the wreaths of laurel that crowned victorious athletes in ancient Greece. Champions of the Olympic Games wore garlands of bay leaves. The word "baccalaureate," signifying the successful completion of one's bachelor studies, means "laurel berries." Bay leaves have always had a reputation for protection against lightning, witchcraft, and evil. Bay also had a legendary role in the love affair of Appollo and Daphne and was associated with romance.

During the European Middle Ages bay leaves were used medicinally.

This page translated into Hungarian on Babérlevél 
Click on this underlined address to have it in Hungarian.

Need to help? (It's free and easy!)

Questions? eMail me from the first page!