Bay

illustration of bay leaf

Bay

(LAURUS NOBILIS)

An intensely aromatic leaf used to enhance dishes and then, sadly, discard

Although most commonly used for culinary purposes, bay leaves also have a presence in history. You might recall the wreath-like crowns that adorned the heads of Olympic medalists and Roman emperors in ancient times, which were made of bay laurel. In these times, bay was considered a symbol of peace, honor, and triumph. They even have a connection to Apollo in Greek mythology.

Bay laurel is a common ingredient in long-cooked dishes because the flavor develops and seeps out over time. Fishing the leaves out of a soup or stew is a familiar part of cooking with bay. Sometimes, California bay is sold as a substitute for bay laurel, however, it is very different. Some people have a bad reaction to this variety, so be sure to check when buying! 

Flavor & Aroma

Dried bay leaves have a strong, pungent aroma that is just as good as what you'll find in the fresh leaves. In fact, they have a slightly less bitter and soapy flavor than fresh leaves, which is preferred. We recommend buying the leaves dried and whole so that there is no risk of spoiling. The flavor lends itself well for brines, pickled, marinades, stews, and sauces.

Origin

Native to the Eastern Mediterranean and cultivated in Turkey, Northern Europe, and the Americas.

Harvest Season

Bay, or bay laurel, is an evergreen shrub in the laurel family that can grow up to 60 feet high. The fresh leaves, which are shiny and dark green on top with a muted green underside, can be harvested at any time. You can typically find both dry and fresh leaves at the grocery.

Usage Ideas

1. Sprinkle ground bay leaf into salted boiling water when cooking pasta or blanching vegetables for an aromatic element.

2. While searing fish in a pan, ignite 1 or 2 bay leaves, drop them into the pan, cover, and let them burn to get a smoky, wood-grilled flavor.

3. Whisk a few pinches of ground bay leaf into eggs to enhance a spinach omelet.

Other Pairings

Crab boil • Chicken noodle soup • Roasted potatoes • Mushroom gravy • Drink for pork loin • Bechamel sauce

Recipes

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Bay Leaves
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