Bay Laurel PLANTING GUIDE
How to Grow Sweet Bay Laurel Trees - Laurus Nobilis - Culinary Bay Leaves tree Magic, Mythology and Mediterranean Cuisine - All Benefit from the Bay Laurel
The bay laurel is native to Turkey, but can be found growing throughout the Mediterranean, where it is widely prized for its rich, aromatic notes and the complexity of warm flavors it adds to many traditional and creative dishes. Fresh or dried bay leaves are used in cooking for their distinctive flavor and fragrance. The leaves are often used to flavor soups, stews, braises and pâtés in Mediterranean cuisine. Innovative chefs have brought bay leaves to sweet dishes, especially custards like custards, ice cream and crème brûlée. These dishes enhance the sweet perfume qualities of bay and bring out its spicier notes of clove and allspice.
Primarily, there are two varieties of the bay laurel trees – the Turkish, and the Californian. The California Bay is more potent in scent and taste than the Turkish – but the Turkish Bay Laurel is infinitely more complex in its aroma and flavor. We offer the Turkish Bay Laurel for you and your culinary delight.
Sun ExposureBay laurel trees will thrive in full sun to light shade, and can be happy indoors for months at a time when over-wintered inside where the climate turns cold. Where windows are abundant, bay laurels even make very attractive houseplants year round, though they do benefit from a summer trip to the patio. Best flavor results from a plant given full sun for a portion of the year.
Soil TypeThe bay laurel is very tolerant of a wide variety of soils so long as it drains well. Even rocky or sandy soil will yield excellent results. Though eventually a very large tree grown in its native environment, bay laurels easily adapt to being grown in a large container. A blend of half potting soil and half cactus mix is ideal for potting your laurel tree.
Planting Depth and SpacingPlant your bay leaf tree in the garden bed or a large container at the same soil depth as it was growing in its container. If planting in the ground, allow several feet around for mature growth, unless you plan to form it into a topiary. For containers, plant in a 5 gallon container or larger to allow for substantial growth.
WateringTake care not to over water your newly transplanted bay laurel. Do not let it sit in wet soil. Once active top growth is evident, weekly deep waterings will encourage good root growth. Allow the soil to dry a good bit between waterings.
FeedingFertilize with general-purpose fertilizer in spring and summer.
Winter CareWhen planted within it's hardiness zones, of 8- 11, lyour bay laurel can remain in the ground, undisturbed over the winter. In colder climates, plan to bring the container inside before the first frost. Be sure to lighten up on the water while the growth slows during winter months.
Harvesting and Using Bay Leaves
Harvest bay leaves any time of year. The flavor and fragrance is strongest just as the plant begins to bloom. The leaves of indoor bay are more flavorful in the summer. Dried leaves remain potent for a year, after which they should be discarded. Most recipes call for dried bay leaves to be used whole, so that they are easy to locate and remove before serving that delicious soup, stew, roast, etc. But Bay leaves can be used fresh as well, and lend fragrance and flavor in many ways. Use the aromatic twigs for lamb or chicken kabob skewers, grill sea food on a bed of fresh bay leaves on the barbecue. Alternate prawns and bay leaves on a skewer, or toss a few wet bay leaves onto the charcoal when grilling pork.
Drying Bay LeavesBay leaves are a wonderfully aromatic addition to many types of dishes and crafts as well. For dried bay leaves, plan to harvest in summer, when the leaves are at their most fragrant. Take the largest leaves in the morning, after the dew has lifted. Spread a paper towels on a baking sheet and spread the leaves out in a single, flat layer. Allow them to lie in a warm, dry location with good air circulation, but out of direct sunlight. After two weeks, turn the leaves and let them lie another week. If no dark green patches remain, they are ready to be stored in an air tight container, like a glass jar, out of direct light.
With very little care, you can have a shining bay tree to grace your home and table. Enjoy!