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Botanical Name: Laurus nobilis.
Species: L. nobilis
Origin: Probably Western Asia.
Habitat :The laurel tree grows all over the Mediterranean region, with Turkey one of the main exporters. Due to poor frost-resistance, laurel is not generally native to more Northern regions, although cultivars are frequently found in cities and other warmer locations.
Used Part: Leaves. Industrially, laurel oil is prepared from the fruits, which may also be used as a spice.
Family: Lauraceae (laurel family).
Effect& Taste : Aromatic and slightly bitter.
Etymology: The botanical genus name laurus and English laurel are derived from the Latin name of the tree, laurus. Almost all languages of Europe have related names, e.g. German lorbeer, Swedish lager, Italian alloro and Portuguese louro. The origin of laurus is not known with certainty but it is neither related to Latin laus “praise” nor loaned from Greek.
In the Ancient Greek tongue, the plant was named daphn? after the nymph Daphne who turned into a laurel shrub to escape the persecution of Apollo. Bay leaves are called dafin in Romanian, dafni in Modern Greek and defne in Turkish. There are also names meaning “leaves of Daphne”, such as Hebrew aley Daphna and Bulgarian Dafinov list.
Species name nobilis is Latin for “noble”. The English term bay leaf (Middle English baye, Old French baie) derives from the Latin bacca “berry”, referring to the fruits.
The bay tree is indigenous to Asia Minor, from where it spread to the Mediterranean and then to other countries with similar climates. According to legend the Delphi oracle chewed bay leaves, or sniffed the smoke of burning leaves to promote her visionary trances. Bay, or laurel, was famed in ancient Greece and Rome. Emperors, heroes and poets wore wreaths of laurel leaves. The Greek word for laurel is dhafni, named for the myth of the nymph Daphne, who was changed into a laurel tree by Gaea, who transformed her to help her escape Apolloâ€™s attempted rape.
The bay leaf is oval, pointed and smooth, 2.5 – 8 cm (1 to 3 in) long. When fresh, the leaves are shiny and dark green on top with lighter undersides. When dried the bay leaf is a matte olive green.
Bouquet: Warm and quite pungent when broken and the aromatic oils are released.
Flavour: Slightly bitter and strongly aromatic.
Hotness : Mild
Preparation and Storage: Dried leaves should be whole and olive green. Brown leaves will have lost their flavour. Whole leaves are often used in cooking and crushed or ground leaves can be used for extra strength. Kept out of light in airtight containers the whole leave will retain flavour for over two years.
Uses: Bay leaves are widely used throughout the world. It may be best known in bouquets garnis or used similarly in soups, sauces, stews, daubes and courts-bouillonâ€™s, an appropriate seasoning for fish, meat and poultry. Bay leaf is often included as a pickling spice.
Bay leaves were considered holy and were associated with Apollo in Ancient Greece. Winners of the Olympic Games were originally decorated with a wreath of olive twigs, but this changed to laurel after the Pythian Games, conducted in honour of Apollo. Roman Emperors made use of laurel wreaths as a symbol of Apollo and bay leaves were a popular spice in Roman cookery.
Today, bay leaves are a common flavouring in all Western countries and are used for soups, stews, sauces, pickles and sausages. In addition, several fish dishes profit greatly from bay leaves. In contrast to the majority of leaf spices, bay leaves can be cooked for prolonged time without much loss of aroma. Fresh or dried bay leaves frequently appear in bouquet garni.
Fresh bay leaves are very strongly aromatic but also bitter. The bitterness is significantly reduced and flavour improved by quick drying, after plucking and sorting without exposure to sunlight. High-quality bay leaves are recognised by their strong aroma and their bright green colour. Bay leaves can be stored for a year, after which they lose their fragrance, turn brown and taste 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 strong sauces and gravies and are excellent with venison (together with juniper). Because of the popularity of bay leaves in the West, many exotic leaf spices are commonly known as “bay leaves” although not botanically or culinarily related. In Asia, the Indian bay leaf comes from a relative of cinnamon native to the Himalayas and Indonesian bay leaves stem from a tree of the myrtle family.
There are other “bay leaves” in the West including the aromatic Californian bay leaf, which is rarely found because of potential health hazards, and Mexican bay leaf which has little commercial value. West Indian bay leaves, which stem from a close relative of allspice, yield West Indian bay oil.
In the Middle Ages it was believed to induce abortions and to have many magical qualities. It was once used to keep moths away, owing to the leafs lauric acid content which gives it insecticidal properties. Bay leaf has many properties which make it useful for treating high blood sugar, migraine headaches, bacterial and fungal infections, and gastric ulcers. Bay leaves and berries have been used for their astringent, carminative, diaphoretic, digestive, diuretic, emetic and stomachic properties. Bay Oil, or Oil of Bays (Oleum Lauri) is used in liniments for bruising and sprains. Bay leaf has been used as an herbal remedy for headaches. It contains compounds called parthenolides, which have proven useful in the treatment of migraines. Bay leaf has also been shown to help the body process insulin more efficiently, which leads to lower blood sugar levels.It has also been used to reduce the effects of stomach ulcers. Bay Leaf contains eugenol, which has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. Bay leaf is also an anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. Bay Leaf has also been used to treat rheumatism, amenorrhea, and colic.
Bay LeafAqueous extracts of bay laurel can also be used as astringents and even as a reasonable salve for open wounds.
In massage therapy, the essential oil of bay laurel is reputed to alleviate arthritis and rheumatism, while in aromatherapy, it is used to treat earaches and high blood pressure. A traditional folk remedy for rashes caused by poison ivy, poison oak, and stinging nettle is a poultice soaked in boiled bay leaves.
The chemical compound lauroside B isolated from Laurus nobilis is an inhibitor of human melanoma (skin cancer) cell proliferation at high concentrations.
Description Of Plant : Grown successfully in Mediterranean-like climates, the Bay is a hardy evergreen shrub that grows wild or cultivated. In warm areas it can grow as high as 18 m (60 ft). Inconspicuous white flowers arrive in clusters, in May. The fruits are small, red-blue single-seeded berries that later turn black about 12 mm (1/2 in) in size. Propagation is best accomplished with the cuttings from shoots. Leaves can be harvested at any time. click & see the pictures
Apolloâs Bay Leaf, Bay, Bay Laurel, Grecian Laurel, Indian Bay, Laurel, Nobel Laurel, Laurel, Roman Laurel, Royal Laurel, Sweet Bay, Sweet Laurel, Wreath Laurel
French: feuille de laurier, laurier franc
Itlaian: foglia di alloro, lauro
Spanish: hoja de laurel
In Bengal it is called Tej Pata
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider
Encyclopedia Of Spices
- Fennel & Bay Leaf Soup With Chicken and Garlic (sadmanstongue.com)
- The Bay Leaf Budget (blogher.com)