Laurus nobilis Linn.
Family : Lauraceae
Other names: Sweet laurel;
bay laurel; Appolo's bay leaf; wreath laurel
Bay leaf, leaf of the sweet bay tree
(Laurus nobilis). Is an evergreen plant, indigenous to Asia
Minor bordering the Mediterranean. Bay is a tree of the sun under
the celestial sign of Leo and has been cultivated from ancient times;
its leaves constituted the wreaths of laurel that crowned emperors,
heroes and victorious athletes in ancient Greece and Rome. In Biblical
times and also in the Middle Ages people associated bay leaves with
goodness and saw it as a protection against evil and lightning.
Today, the Grand Prix winner is decked with a laurel wreath and
the poet of the British Royal Household is given the title of poet
laureate. During the European Middle Ages bay leaves were used medicinally.
Bay tree is a large dense evergreen
shrub or ornamental tree up to 15 m height. The leaves are large,
glossy dark green, elliptical and pointed (about 8 cm long and 3-4
cm wide). Small creamy - yellow flowers appear in early summer,
followed by dark-purple, black one-seeded berries on mature plants.
These trees grow in rich, well-drained
soil in full sun. Young plants are sheltered from cold winds and
frost. They are planted in early autumn or spring and trimmed to
shape in summer. Propagation is by layering shoots or from cuttings
of side roots. The leaves are harvested by hand, dried in shallow
layers in shade and lightly pressed flat. Ripe berries are pressed
Bay leaves contain approximately
1.5 - 2.5 % essential oil, the principal component of which is cineole.
Bay oleoresin contains about 4 - 8 % volatile oil. Essential oil
of bay is also available.
Aroma and Flavour
Bay leaves are a popular culinary
flavouring in classic and contemporary cuisines which stimulates
the appetite. A popular spice used in pickling and marinating and
to flavour stews, stuffings, and fish, bay leaves are delicately
fragrant but have a bitter taste. It is an essential ingredient
in many classic sauces.
The smooth and lustrous dried bay
leaves are usually used whole and then removed from the dish after
cooking; they are sometimes marketed in powdered form. The crushed
form is a major component in pickling spices in processed meats
and pickle industry. Ground bay is utilized in many seasoning blends
and products. Oil of bay and bay oleoresin are used in soluble pickling
Medicinal and other use
Bay leaf has legendary medicinal
properties. It has astringent, diuretic and digestive qualities
and is a good appetite stimulant. When pulped these leaves can be
applied as an astringent to burns and bruises. Oil from ripe berries
is used in liqueurs, perfume and in veterinary field. The acid from
the leaves discourages moths.