Bay leaves are an essential flavoring for many recipes and I’m fortunate that I have a potted bay leaf tree that has been alive for at least fifteen years and has provided a constant supply of fresh leaves for loads of dishes (I’m also fortunate that my hubby has been willing to lug said tree around for fifteen years – it’s not small). A bay leaf tree is one of those plants that will live happily in your home in a sunny spot, and truth be told, it actually makes quite a handsome house plant so it’s a multi-tasker, what’s not to love?
Bay leaves were cultivated by the early Greeks both for food and medicine, they were also woven into ceremonial crowns for their leaders and winning athletes. The actual bay tree- Laurus nobilis -was said to have been the transformed nymph Daphne. She was pursued relentlessly by the god Apollo until her father took pity on her and turned her into the tree. Apollo still loved and worshipped Daphne as the bay tree and bestowed immortality upon her, thus it remains evergreen (at least in Greece).
While I use fresh leaves at home, I also need them when I’m cooking in other locations. If I know what i’m making in advance I can snip a couple and bring them with me in a damp paper towel, otherwise I have to rely on dried leaves. I currently have a small batch drying.
They’re super easy to preserve. Snip, rinse, cover and abandon until they’re dry. I put them in my bottom oven where they won’t be bothered by anyone (and yes I have forgotten they were in there and cooked them to oblivion – oops).
If you’re looking for a great plant for culinary purposes and for a spot in your home, head out and get yourself a bay tree (or find one on the internet – and no I don’t get a kickback from that). You’ll enjoy it for years to come, I promise!