Posted in Herbs, spices, tagged Aromatic Leaves, Bay Laurel, Bay Leaf, Culinary Herbs, Edible Leaves, Evergreen Shrubs, Fragrant plants, Herb Gardens, Herbs, Laurus nobilis, shrubs, trees, True Bay, True Laurel on February 24, 2010|
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When I was a young ‘tweenager’ my mother started to get me cooking meals. She taught me about preparing all the basics, selection vegetables, different meats and their cuts and about flavouring things with herbs and spices. Later I would find my own ways of experimenting with simple recipes. One herb which fascinated me was the Bay Leaf (Laurus nobilis). Imagine my surprise when I saw True Bay Laurel trees growing in front of my sisters place on Government street!
The clipped Bay Laurel in front of my sister's place.
It seems very appropriate to be writing about this plant as it is closely associated with athletic games held in ancient Greece The event winners would receive a Bay Laurel wreath as a prize. The games called the Pythian Games and were held to honour the god Apollo.
This Laurus nobilis is a multi-stemmed shrub which is regularly clipped.
Apollo was amorous of Daphne who did not return his feelings, she ran off and asked her father (Pereus the River god) for help. He turned her in to a laurel tree which was located near the bank of a river. In this disguise she was able to escape from Apollo. Apollo found the tree and made himself a wreath from it’s branches in the memory of her beauty. The Laurel tree was one of Apollos’ symbols.
These two True Bay lead into the formal herb garden at Government House, Victoria.
Wreaths were also given to important poets and this is where the term Poet Laureate comes from. The source of ‘baccalaureate’ is the laurel berry.
Christians held the Bay tree to be a symbol of the resurrection of Christ and triumph of humanity.
The Bay tree even is spoken of in Chinese folklore in the famous story of Wu Gang. Wu Gang was a man who wanted immortality but neglected his work. When the deities found out about his neglect they tricked Wu Gang by making him think that by cutting down a Laurel tree he could join them. Every time he cut the tree down it would miraculously regenerate and never could be fell.
These wonderful True Bay leaves have a spicy scent if rubbed up against.
The Bay tree and it’s parts are found symbolized in many places as diverse as the American one dollar bill, ten yen coin of Japan, the shield and flag of the Dominican Republic and strangely is the clan plant of the Scottish clan Graham.. It naturally is very important to the country of Greece where it is found in the national emblem of the country.
This Laurus nobilis has set flower buds which will bloom later in the year.
For most of us it is a flavouring used in stew and other savoury dishes. It can be harvested as single leaves or as branches and used right from the tree or bush. It also can easily be dried and used later. As my mother taught me one leave goes a long way, so care must be used with this flavouring.
The only part of this herb garden which was not replaced were the three True Bays.
The California Bay Laurel (Umbellularia Californica) is sometimes sold as the True Bay. The leaf margins on the plant are smooth whereas those of the True Bay tend to undulated. I would not use the California Bay in place of True Bay in food preparation as it has much stronger volatile oils which are not the same.
Just another happy Laurus nobilis growing in a Herb garden.
In its native habitat of the Mediterranean, Laurus noblis has been cultivated for thousands of years where it grows to about 18m (60ft). Here it more commonly grown as a clipped, shaped shrub which can be used as a formal hedge, container plant, accent or specimen plant. Buy them as a small trees in a container and then shape it as you please. The True Bay like well-drained soil and full sun. It tolerates short droughts very well and does not like to be over-watered. Bay’s live in zones 8 through 11 and tolerate temperatures down to freezing for short periods.
More about Bay Trees:
Wiki has a good page:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bay_leaf
A good article from Flooridata: http://www.floridata.com/ref/L/laur_nob.cfm
Now on to Kim’s yummy recipes!
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