Also know as sweet bay, sweet laurel, bay laurel and laurel leaf. Store in a cool, dry place, away from bright light, heat and moisture. Available fresh, dried whole leaves or ground dried leaves. Bay is probably the one herb that most cooks prefer using dried than fresh.
Add a bay leaf or two to marinades, stock, pâtés, stews, stuffings and curries. When poaching fish, add a bay leaf to the water. Store with rice in a tight fitting jar and the leaf will impart its flavor to the rice when cooked.
Bay leaves greatly improve flavor if you are cutting down on salt. Try adding a bay leaf or two when you boil potatoes to replace salt. Always remember to remove the whole bay leaf after cooking in any dish.
Fragrant bay leaves are a basic ingredient of bouquet garni, but they have other wonderful uses. Bay leaves may be added to many fish dishes, particularly salmon, custards, stews, rice dishes and especially soups.
Homemade chicken soup would not be homemade without a bay leaf or two. Don't worry about using the fresh herb, the dried version is usually all that is needed. However, overuse of this herb can make a dish bitter.
Remember to always add leaves to the start of cooking and remove before serving.
Cultivation of Sweet Bay Laurel
Site: Sweet bay laurel requires full sun but needs protection from easterly winds with a soil or compost containing lime. Water regularly but not too much during summer months. During the wintertime, it needs very little water.
Propagation: Only the experienced gardener should try propagating sweet bay. Take 4 inch cutting of stems in late summer. Plant cutting in heated propagator with high humidity then transplanted to to a frost free area. It is best to buy a pot grown specimen and plant in spring.
Growing: A sweet bay laurel will grow to about 15 - 20 feet tall in milder climates. Its growth is slow only about 1 foot each year. This is a great plant to grow in a large container for the first 5 years of its life.
If you live in an area where the winters do not reach below 25 degrees you can plant them outdoors. If you live in an area with harsh winters, leave it in the pot and bring it indoors during the winter.
Harvesting: To harvest leaves, just pull individual leaves from the sides of the stem. Cutting off a branch tip will make the plant branch out into a fuller shrub.
Culinary Uses: In cooking, remember that fresh sweet bay is stronger than the dried bay leaves, so use very sparingly. The scent is not present until the leaf is heated, when the oils are released. One fresh leaf in stews, and spaghetti sauces is usually plenty.