Also called sweet bay, this evergreen is native to the Mediterranean. The Sweet Bay is a small tree, growing in Britain.
Romans considered the bay tree as pure protection from thunderstorms, and Nero believed that bay trees purified "vapors" thought to cause disease. As recently as the founding of America, superstition held that when bay trees died, disaster followed.
In classical times, bay laurel was made into wreaths to crown poets, scholars and athletes.
Bay leaf can also be used in making a home made, dry carpet cleaner and to freshen the air as part of an Herbal Air Freshener...
Home Made Dry Carpet Cleaner
Brightens rugs and adds a fresh scent.
2 cups baking soda
1/2 cup cornstarch
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1 teaspoon ground cloves
In a covered container, mix all the ingredients well. Store in a safe place, away from children. To use, shake well and sprinkle generously on the carpet. Leave for several hours (overnight if possible, keeping children and pets off the carpet). Vacuum thoroughly.
Herbal Air Freshener
A spicy fragrance that will over power even such strong odors as onion.
1/4 cup dried sage
1/2 cup crushed bay leaves
1 cup witch hazel
In a large jar, mix all the ingredients well. Cover and let sit, UN-refrigerated, for 3 days. Strain out the herbs and pour the remaining liquid into a spray bottle. Use as necessary. Yield: 1 cup.
Bay Leaf as an Herb for Medicinal Use
In the Middle Ages it was believed to induce abortions and to have many magical qualities. It was once used to keep moths away, owing to the leafs lauric acid content which gives it insecticidal properties.
Modern medical application of the herb would be increasing insulin sensitivity, lowering blood sugars, and retarding weight gain. Bay leaf was one of four spices (bay, cinnamon, clove, turmeric) studied by USDA's Dr. Richard Anderson. He suggested that less than a spoonful of either could improve insulin metabolism dramatically.
Bay leaf has been used as an herbal remedy for headaches. It contains compounds called parthenolides, which have proven useful in the treatment of migraines. Bay leaf has also been shown to help the body process insulin more efficiently, which leads to lower blood sugar levels.It has also been used to reduce the effects of stomach ulcers. Bay Leaf contains eugenol, which has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. Bay leaf is also an anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. Bay Leaf has also been used to treat rheumatism, amenorrhea, and colic.
Culinary Uses of Bay Leaf
Bay leaf, most commonly known for its use in cooking, is used as one of many similar herbs, including cinnamon, cloves, and turmeric. Stocks, soups, stews, sauces, marinades, stuffing and pickles benefit from the addition of fresh or dried bay leaves. Fish dishes are enhanced by the combination of bay and fennel; lamb and other robust meats may be stewed or grilled with bay.
In sweets such as custard, poached fruit, sweet sauces, simple sugar syrup, and rice desserts.
Bay leaf is identified in specialty cookbooks as:
- sweet laurel
- dafni (Greek)
- lager (Swedish)
- laurier (Dutch)
- lauro (Italian)
- lavr (Rusian)
- yue gui (Mandairin)
- yuht gwai (Cantonese)
Most cooks use the whole bay leaves and remove them before serving, though traditionally the guest who has the leaf in their portion was due to receive some minor or major fortune.
Bay leaves are widely used throughout the world. It may be best known in bouquets garnis or used similarly in soups, sauces, stews, daubes and courts-bouillon's, an appropriate seasoning for fish, meat and poultry. Bay leaf is often included as a pickling spice.
Herbed Grain Pilaf
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 medium chopped yellow onion, 1 bayleaf and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Cook until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add 1 cup pearl barley and cook 3 minutes. Add 2-1/2 cups organic reduced sodium chicken broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until barley is tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley and 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest. Makes four servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 242 calories, 8g protein, 44g carbohydrates, 8g fiber, 2g sugars, 5g fat, 1g saturated fat, 291mg sodium.
An old use is to put leaves in containers of rice or flour to deter weevils.
Overall, bay leaf has very few adverse effects, and is likely safe when consumed in amounts used in foods. However, it may cause contact dermatitis and occupational asthma.
Bay leaves may become lodged in the gastrointestinal tract, causing tears or blockages. These impacted leaves may also obstruct breathing.
Other reported side effects include hand and face eczema and airborne contact dermatitis.
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