Aromatic, bitter bay leaves were used to crown athletes in ancient Greece. Today, bay showcases its versatility in dishes such as ragout and soup.
Bay as an Herb
Usually it’s the leaves that are used as an herb, but the fruit and branches are also sometimes used to add flavor to dishes. Fresh bay leaves have a bitter, fruity and citrussy aroma. Dried bay leaves, on the other hand, have a slightly bitter, balsamic flavor reminiscent of nutmeg. You can tell the quality of dried bay leaves from the intensity of their aroma and their color: The greener it is, the higher the quality of the herb. Unlike other leafy herbs, bay leaves do not break down when cooked, so they are often removed before serving the dish.
Products Containing Bay
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Bay is resistant to heat and can be cooked for longer periods of time without losing much flavor. For this reason, it is a particularly popular addition to ragouts, casseroles and sauces. Bay is also an excellent herb to use in meat dishes. The bitter flavor of bay also complements preserved foods like olives perfectly. It’s best to use the leaves sparingly — their flavor only starts to develop during cooking. As dried bay leaves quickly lose their flavor, it’s best not to buy them for the store cupboard — only buy them when you need them.
Bay goes really well with rice and milk products. Our insiders' tip is a nightcap: Simply infuse one or two bay leaves in hot milk sweetened with honey!
The bay tree is related to cinnamon and was found in Asia and the Mediterranean region during ancient times. Since then, it has been regarded as a symbol of fame and honor — it was even used to crown victorious athletes in Olympia. Meat also used to be grilled over a fire of baywood so that the meat would take on the herb’s exquisite, bitter taste. Bay trees grow to up to ten meters tall. Today, they are mainly grown in the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions, and Turkey produces over half of the world’s harvest. Bay trees can also survive in colder regions like Central Europe, usually as pot plants.
- Scientific Name
- Laurus nobilis
- Lauraceae family
- Other Names
- Bay laurel, true laurel, bay leaf
- Turkey, Mediterranean region, Black Sea region