Laurus nobilis, the wreath of ancient Greece
Botanical name: Laurus nobilis, Family: Lauraceae
Bay leaf, also known as bay laurel, true laurel and sweet bay, is a kitchen staple that makes its rounds in many culinary dishes. Bay leaves are derived from the evergreen tree Laurus Nobilis, which is common to the Mediterranean basin. For centuries, these leaves were used in laurel wreaths to symbolize victory and success and were popularly donned by Olympians and roman emperors. Today, bay leaves can be used fresh or dried to infuse long-simmering foods like stews, soups, rice pilafs, sauces and braises with a distinct flavour and aroma. Many kitchen aficionados, however, prefer to use bay leaf in its dried form as the fresh variety is pungent and can impart a bitter flavour to dishes.
There are many varieties of bay leaf to choose from, but the most common are:
Mediterranean bay leaf
Comes from the genus L. nobilis and is the most well-known variety. It is known for its woodsy and tea-like fragrance.
Californian bay leaf
Derived from the genus umbellularia californica. It is more pungent than L. nobilis and has a eucalyptus-like aroma with floral undertones.
Other types include Indian bay leaf, Indonesian bay leaf and Mexican bay leaf.
These are some ways you can use bay leaf in the kitchen:
- Make a bouquet garni to drop into your stew or soup.
- Use it on your next roasted chicken.
- Drop a few leaves into your risotto dish.
- Add it to your homemade pickled veggies.
- Put a few dried bay leaves into your smoker.
- Infuse them in your favorite chicken Thai curry.
Whenever using bay leaves in your recipes, remember to remove them before serving as they’re very fibrous and inedible. You can store them in an air-tight container in a dark, cool area or place them in the freezer to preserve their flavour and aroma