the bay leaf tree; it’s slow growing but never underestimate a co-starring role or a quiet achiever

Posted by on Nov 30, 2014 in Home | 18 Comments

How would you feel if you were left out more often than not? So spare a thought for bay leaves. Whether it be fresh or dried, apparently some people can’t be bothered with them due to their very subtle flavour. I’m here to tell you, as a fresh bay leaf advocate, that they do make a difference to a dish. Think of them as a co-starring role; their eucalyptus, clove-like aroma and slightly bitter flavour offer the depth your slow cooked dish is screaming out for. Fresh bay leaves (Laurus nobilis) are more pungent and aromatic than dried and can be overpowering so always obey the less is more rule. Unlike other herbs, bay leaves do not lose their flavour during the cooking process. Although I always have dried bay leaves on hand, I’ve grown a bay leaf tree in a pot for years. Maybe I should plant it in the ground but I’m lazy and aware that they can grow up to 20 metres. Besides my 60 cm tree provides me with all I need and is a space saver. Being Mediterranean in origin, they love lots of sun, well drained soil and only need water every few days. The best way to start growing them is to actually buy a small tree from a good nursery. And like the slow cooked or braised dishes they are usually paired with, bay leaves are slow growing; a real case of sitting around and watching the bay leaf tree grow.

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I doubt it keeps people up at night but there is much debate on whether fresh leaves can be substituted for dry. There is certainly a different flavour (many prefer them dried-they’re less bitter) but who cares? Live on the edge, do what works for you! I know I feel more in control of my life when I throw in bay leaves from my backyard. Fresh leaves can be hard to find so just grow your own. You can harvest anytime, all year round but it’s easier to remove the leaves from the plant in summer as they produce more oils when the weather is warm. You can also freeze fresh leaves for up to three months. Another handy hint is putting a few leaves in food containers such as flour to keep the silverfish and evil weevils away. I particularly pay attention to bay leaves around xmas time, there is something so traditional (although European) about them. So I’ve included the classic bouquet garni (French for ‘garnished bouquet)’ to end this post on a classy note. Always remember to remove the leaves before serving as choking on a bay leaf or bouquet garni is not a good look :: Jem x

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BOUQUET GARNI

1 fresh bay leaf
A few fresh thyme sprigs
A few fresh parsley stalks

Tie herbs together with kitchen string or in a piece of muslin cloth. Throw this little aromatic bundle in your stockpot for the cooking process and remove before serving. You will feel like you’re taking care of the finer details in life.

18 Comments

  1. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella
    December 5, 2014

    I love bay leaves in stews-they add so much subtle flavour. And did you know that they’re apparently good for deterring pantry moths? 🙂

    Reply
  2. Emma
    December 7, 2014

    I love LOVE fresh bay leaves but can never find them and have to resort to dried ones which work but aren’t nearly as good. Your bay leaf tree looks so healthy!

    Sweet little bouquet garni too – herbs make such a difference to a dish, I use them in everything these days.

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      December 7, 2014

      Thanks Emma, I agree herbs make such a difference to a dish and are essential in cooking. A world without herbs would be a very boring place indeed!

      Reply
  3. Lucy @ Bake Play Smile
    December 7, 2014

    I have never even seen a bay leaf tree!!! I always use the dried ones but this has got me very excited! Herbs make everything so much better!

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      December 8, 2014

      Most definitely Lucy…I get excited about fresh bay leaves!

      Reply
  4. Gourmet Getaways
    December 9, 2014

    Oh what a great idea to “tie it up” with thyme and parsley! The bay leaf also used in Filipino dish, Adobo. Thanks for the insights, Jem!!

    Julie & Alesah
    Gourmet Getaways xx

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      December 10, 2014

      Thank you…I didn’t know that they were used in any Filipino dishes…we’re all learning from each other 🙂

      Reply
  5. Alessandra // the foodie teen
    December 11, 2014

    Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous post! I loooove bay leaves in absolutely everything and never manage to find fresh ones – I might just have to get gardening 🙂

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      December 11, 2014

      Thanks Alessandra…it is very difficult to find fresh ones so growing your own is definitely the way to go (or grow)! 😉

      Reply
  6. Padaek
    January 5, 2015

    Happy new year to you and yours! 🙂 I thought about buying a bay tree from Bunnings last year. Thanks for the thumbs up on them, now I think it’s a definite. Also last year, I saw a about 2 m tall bay tree. Great looking thing! Did not know they grow slow. Love bay leaves. Definitely an essential. Great with pickles too. Fresh is best, and such a handsome plant.

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      January 6, 2015

      Happy New Year Padaek! They are certainly worth the buy but sooo slow to grow. Lucky you don’t need to use more than a few at a time 🙂

      Reply
  7. Jamie
    February 10, 2015

    I’m a bay tree fan, too, but I know that the only place you can have them in a garden (unless you have 5 acres) is in a pot. Wow, did our in-ground bay tree grow fast when we first moved here 23 years ago… it just HAD to go!

    And this year I’ve discovered that the potted bay trees love as much water as you can give them. (And as for fresh V dried, I love fresh).

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      February 10, 2015

      That’s good advice Jamie, I’m very happy with it staying in the pot! I’m glad you’re a fresh bay leaf advocate as well 🙂

      Reply
  8. Function 9
    February 15, 2015

    Definitely fresh bay leaves…and I would certainly need a reminder to remove them after cooking haha.

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      February 15, 2015

      Fresh for sure! I think you may realise you have a bouquet garni on your fork before it is too late 😉

      Reply
  9. Nagi@RecipeTinEats
    January 20, 2016

    Such wonderful insights you have for the bay leaves. It’s true that it can bring out the wonderful flavors of a dish. Herbs always make a difference. I am now thinking of planting my own bay leaf tree. Thanks for this!

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      January 21, 2016

      They make all the difference as you would know Nagi. A life without herbs, would be a sad life indeed.

      Reply

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