Spicy Landscaping


Bay leaf has been a culinary staple dating back to ancient Greek civilizations. Cooks use it fresh or dry. Many won’t serve spaghetti sauce without it, but few grow their own.

Bay leaves come from a medium to large evergreen shrub known as bay laurel. These woody plants can grow 10-12 feet tall. They are not a fast grower, which can be an advantage for their use as a landscape plant.

If your landscape were a comedy act, bay laurel would be the straight man. These shrubs don’t have dominating flowers or intriguing variegated leaves. Their aroma isn’t appreciated until we use them in cooking or simmering potpourri. They do have a dense growth habit which makes a great hedge or foundation plant.

Leathery leaves with a smooth edge emerge from stems singly. Flowers are pale yellow-green and less than half an inch in diameter. They are born in pairs beside a leaf. Plants are dioecious, meaning entire specimens are either male or female. Fruits ripen in early winter but aren’t used in cooking or as a major food source for wildlife.

Unless planted in a protected spot shrubs risk cold temperature injury in a harsh winter. Other than that they have few pest or disease problems. Bay laurel thrives in a variety of soils and tolerates shade but is more adaptable to sunny locations. Plants have extremely good drought and heat tolerance. Deer don’t like them either.

Sometimes called sweet bay, they are native to the Mediterranean region and are no relation to the sweet bay magnolias found in our swamps. Early Greeks and Romans used the aromatic leaves in many different ways. The leaves have maximum oil content during early and mid-summer.

I find they still give sufficient flavor to marinara sauce through their dormant season. Generally, leaves are removed before eating. They have sharp edges that can irritate gums and out digestive system. However, I have seen recipes where leaves are used in ground form.

In addition to culinary use, many people use extracts from sweet bay to fight dandruff. To prepare this herbal rinse, boil a quart of water and add about three level teaspoons of crushed bay leaves. Let the leaves steep in the covered pot for about twenty-five minutes.

To use this concoction, wash and rinse hair as usual. Then rinse again with this tea-like preparation. After some vigorous massaging, rinse with this solution again. Leave the concoction on the hair for an hour or so. Then rinse with plain water. According to numerous sources, regular use will keep dandruff from recurring.

This same tonic is sometimes used internally to treat an upset stomach and reduce gas. Its strong diuretic properties will rid the body of excess water. This could be a problem during hot summer days.

Many sources tout the high nutritional value of bay laurel foliage. High levels of Vitamins A and C as well as folic acid reside in these leaves. To take advantage of these vitamins chew on the fresh leaves as cooking denatures most vitamins.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVigorous sweet bay (bay laurel)

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ted Manzer teaches agriculture at Northeastern High School in Elizabeth City, NC.

Advertisements

About tedmanzer

I grew up in Old Town Maine and got a B.S. at the University of Maine in Plant Sciences/ minor in Botany. From there I moved to West Virginia and earned a M.S. in Agronomy at WVU. I also met my wife there. She grew up in rural WV as the daughter of tenant farmers who raised cattle and hogs. Their lifestyle at times was one of subsistence and I learned a lot from them. I've always been a foraging buff, but combining my formal botanical knowledge with their practical 'Foxfire-type' background opened up my eyes a little more. I now teach agriculture to high school students at Northeastern High School in Elizabeth City, NC. My wife teaches with me and we make a great team. I also write a weekly nature/foraging column for the local paper (dailyadvance.com) and frequently publish articles in several other newspapers in northeastern North Carolina. I also have written several Christian nature/adventure novels that I plan to publish eventually. One is a five book family saga I call the 'Forgotten Virtues' series. In the first book, Never Alone, a young boy comes of age after his father dies in a plane crash, and he has to make it alone. Never Alone is now available in paperback, Kindle and Nook. The second book, Strange Courage, takes Carl from his High School graduation to his recovery from a nasty divorce. The third book, Second Chances, takes Carl from his ex-wife's death and the custody of his son to his heroic death at age 59. The fourth book, Promises Kept, depicts how his grandchildren react and adjust to his death. In the final book, Grandfather's Way, his youngest and most timid granddaughter emerges from the shadow of her overachieving family and accomplishes more in four months than most do in a lifetime. I use many foraging references with a lot of the plants I profile in these articles in those books.
This entry was posted in foraging and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Spicy Landscaping

  1. This plant has been used dating back all the way to ancient Greek civilizations. It is still a sought after plant by those in the culinary arts as it can be used fresh or dry although many don’t grow the plant themselves. Leaves are often taken off since they can irritate the gums and digestive system, but the leaves can be eaten in ground form, and as a concoction to fight dandruff. They make great landscape plants seeing that they only grow 10-12 feet and grow very slowly. -Katlyn Doepker

  2. ashleychory says:

    This plant has been used from all the way to ancient Greek civilizations. it is used by most cooks and can be used fresh or dry and some of them don’t grow it their self. They are great landscape plants and they only grow 10-12 feet and grow slow. and they have very High levels of Vitamins A and C as well as folic acid reside in these leaves. and to get these vitamins chew on the fresh leaves as cooking denatures most vitamins. – Ashley Chory

  3. this plant looks really cool mr manzer

  4. curtis24 says:

    They have very High levels of Vitamins A and C as well as folic acid reside in these leaves.THis type of Bay leaf has been used dating back in Ancient greek civilizations.THey have a dense growth habitat makes a great foundation plant.This plat is used to fight dandruff to use its extracts,But you would have to rinse really really good.

  5. Bay leaves are very common in Italian dishes. They actually come from a medium to large evergreen shrub called bay laurel. They are pretty easy to take care of. They need to be protected from the winter weather but other than that they have few pest or disease problems. I find it interesting that deers don’t like them considering the wide range of plants that they do eat.

  6. Morgan Murray says:

    Bay leaves are very common in Italian dishes. They actually come from a medium to large evergreen shrub called bay laurel. They are pretty easy to take care of. They need to be protected from the winter weather but other than that they have few pest or disease problems. I find it interesting that deer’s don’t like them considering the wide range of plants that they do eat.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s