Phone

Foods

Bay leaves

Why Eat It
Varieties
Availability
Shopping
Storage
Preparation


Why Eat It

The laurel wreaths that crowned the heads of ancient Greeks athletes were made of bay leaves, which come from a shrub-like tree related to mountain laurel and rhododendrons. Stiff and sharp, bay leaves are not usually eaten, per se--the leaves are added to food as it cooks, then removed, because swallowing them would be dangerous. But some recipes do call for powdered bay leaf, and in this form it 's actually eaten. Bay leave is also available fresh, though dried bay leaf is more commonly used. Bay leaf has long been known as a folk remedy to stimulate digestion and soothe stomach upsets.

Varieties

The bay leaves sold in United States come from California or Turkey. The California bay leaves are long and narrow; the imported bay leaves, with their broad, pointed oval shape, have a milder, subtler flavor that many cooks consider superior.

Availability

Both California bay leaves and Turkish bay leaves are available in supermarkets year round although California may be easier to find. If your supermarket doesn't carry Turkish bay leaves, look for them in specialty spice shops and gourmet stores.

Ground bay leaves are sometimes available on the supermarket spice shelf.

Shopping

Whether shopping for bay leaves in bulk or in jars, look for leaves that are dull green and intact unless you plan on crushing them. Whole leaves are much easier to fish out of a dish than bits and pieces.

Storage

Store in a cool, dry spot away for the heat. Bay leaves will keep well for a year or more, but begin to loose their aroma and flavor after that.

Preparation

Use whole bay leaves in soups and stews. Remember to always remove and discard them before serving. Because of their pointy, sharp edges, the leaves are dangerous if ingested. If a recipe calls for powdered bay leaves and they aren't available, you can grind them in a spice grinder or mini processor.


Date Published: 04/19/2005
Previous  |  Next
> Printer-friendly Version Return to Top