5 ways to use Bay Leaves
Do you have a bay leaf growing in your garden or are you growing a bay shrub for decoration in a pot? There are so many amazing advantages and uses to having bay leaf and I am here to tell you about a few…
So what is Bay Leaf?
Bay leaves come from the Bay tree or shrub (called Laurus Nobilis) – an aromatic evergreen tree/shrub. It has lovely yellow flowers and the tree can grow up to 20 metres high! But usually less, especially if you plant the bay tree in a pot like I do here on our property on the Mornington Peninsula – it makes it easier to reach and pick the lovely aromatic leaves. The female trees produce black berries after flowering. The leaves and the berries are used to make aromatic oils.
There are other varieties of bay including the West Indian bay (also called wild cinnamon), the anise bay and a few more, but for today’s blog we are focusing on Bay Laurel which is the most common bay tree used in households.
Bay leaf in history
Bay Laurel (also called true bay and sweet bay) originates in the Mediterranean region. In Israel (where I am from originally) we call bay leaf ‘Dafna’ – this name comes from Greek mythology after Daphne, the nymph who captures Apollo’s heart. Daphne chose to become a bay tree and not to fall for Apollo…every since that day, Apollo who was heartbroken always wore a crown of bay leaves, so a piece of Daphne will always be with him…
In time, wearing bay leaf crowns became of symbol of victory - in ancient Greece and Rome, winners in competitions and battles or leaders would adorn a crown of bay leaves on their head. Bay leaves were also hung in garlands at special festivals.
In ancient times, it was also believed that bay leaves can repel demons, witches, winds, thunder and lightning. It is said that on stormy nights, the emperor Tiberius used to hide under his bed wearing a garland made of bay leaves….that would have been a sight…
Uses for bay leaf:
1. Bay leaf for aches and pains – bay leaf is considered antirheumatic and helps warm and improve circulation so it is the perfect herb for muscular and articular aches and pains, which is the reason why we use Bay leaf infused oil as our main ingredient in our Be Better Balms pain balm
2. Bay leaf is great to use on your hair – as it promotes circulation, it can encourage hair growth and general health of the hair and scalp. It can applied as an infused oil – I would recommend infusing it with olive oil (a blog about how to infuse oils is coming up really soon…) and massaging it into your hair and scalp. For a deep treatment, leave it overnight with a shower cap and wash off in the morning.
3. Bay leaf aids digestion - Adding Bay leaves when you cook is a great way to help the body digest food and increase absorption of vitamins and minerals from the food. You can add the bay leaves fresh (although they are quite mild when fresh) or dry (simply pick some leaves and dry them - Tie them with a string and hang in the house until dry and the leaves crumble in your hands)
It is recommended not to eat the leaves as it is quite a hardy and sharp edged leaf.
Bay leaves are a key ingredient in Bouquet garni and are much used in soups, stews, stock, sauces and more.
pickled vegetables with bay leaves –
1 cup water
1 cup white vinegar
5 Tbs Olive oil
Cauliflower – cut to florets
2 Carrots – sliced thinly
1 cup capsicum cut to strips
5-10 bay leaves
2 Garlic cloves peeled
½ cup Green olives
Place the water, vinegar and olive oil in a large saucepan and heat (do not boil) – add the vegetables and keep simmering for 15 minutes.
Take the saucepan off the heat and add the bay leaves, garlic and green olives. Mix everything and ladle to glass jars. Make sure the vegetables are all covered with liquid – if needed, add more vinegar and top it with a bit of oil to seal the mixture.
4. Bay leaf helps fight infections – here’s a great recipe for sore throats –
3-5 bay leaves
2 cups of water
Bring the bay leaves and water to a boil, simmer for 5-10 min, add the manuka honey (or if you are vegan you could use coconut nectar) and drink it slowly or use as a gargle.
5. Bay leaf is a great moth repellent – simply place a couple of dried bay leaves in containers with flour, breadcrumbs etc to keep away pantry moths.
You can also make this super aromatic herbal pouch and place it in your cupboards for a lovely aroma and moth protection. Here’s how –
Choose a selection of dried herbs such as Lavender, Sage, Rosemary and crumbled bay leaves.
Place a mixture of these herbs on a muslin sheet and tie with a string
Place in your drawer or cupboard to keep moths away and enjoy the lovely herbal aroma….
Bay is a wonderful addition to your garden, and if space is an issue (or even if it’s not an issue!) you can easily grow bay in a pot. Just remember to prune it regularly to encourage growth.
Bay leaf has always been associated with success and indeed, this herb has so many benefits including the 5 I have discussed in this blog.
So what are you waiting for – go get your bay and enjoy all its gifts….
I would love to hear from you about how you use Bay in your daily life, or if you have any questions please write in the comments below.