Bay Leaves History:
It is believed that bay leaves, or laurus nobilis, originated in South Asia. However, they are more commonly found in French and Mediterranean cuisine, yet cultivated all over the world. With history dating back to Greek mythology In which Daphne fled from smitten Apollo’s arms and was transformed into the laurel tree. Apollo was so enamored by the loveliness of the tree that he commanded its leaves would be given to reward the highest accomplishments in the Greek culture. Bay leaves were then woven into reeds and worn as crowns by Greek and Roman heroes.
Bay Leaves Uses:
Bay was used for many centuries as a medicinal herb when steeped as a tea. Legend has it that the leaves would cure skin rashes, rheumatoid arthritis, and even ear infections. A rich source of antioxidants, bay leaves contain flavonoids, alkaloids, anthocyanins and flavones.
Emerging research in current day shows that bay leaves may also have a positive effect on blood glucose as well as triglyceride and cholesterol levels in those eating bay leaves in higher quantities regularly. Of course, more research needs to be done to solidify this as fact, but these findings on the effects of bay on diabetes and cardiovascular disease are encouraging.
Bay Leaves Benefits:
In cooking, bay is a very versatile and aromatic herb, with a moderate taste, lending itself best to background flavor notes. Some describe it as having a mild mint flavor with hints of pine and black pepper. It pairs well with meats, poultry, and fish to add fragrance and flavor. Because it is not overpowering in flavor, it pairs well with other herbs and spices. Along with parsley and thyme, bay leaves are a staple in the renowned French bundle of herbs, bouquet garni. Dried bay leaves can be added whole to soups and stews and will impart flavor during the cooking process. They do not soften with cooking; therefore, it is recommended that the leaves are plucked out of the soup or stew prior to serving.