I was excited to find branches of bay leaf at the Farmers’ Market. Green and supple, they were nothing like the khaki-colored shards of bay leaf from the supermarket that appear to have been dried in a blast furnace.
I’m so envious of the hedges of evergreen bay laurel that grow with abandon in Italy. In the climate of southeastern Pennsylvania, bay laurel plants can only be grown as an annual. I did grow a bay in a container for a couple seasons, wintering it over by letting it go dormant in the garage. (Trying to keep herbs going indoors just seems to be a non-starter for me.)
Bay leaf is such a wonderful seasoning that I’m always shocked by how under-used it is. The complex aroma of the leaves is like an intriguing blend of herb, wine, and allspice.
Since bay responds best to moist heat, I add a few leaves to almost every soup, stew, braise, and bean dish I cook. If the leaves have been only lightly dried, they emerge from the dish intact. Even if the recipe doesn’t call for bay leaf, throw in one or two or three. You won’t be sorry.
If you don’t have a garden or a farmers’ market, you can buy fine Turkish bay leaves at Penzeys Spices.
Have you successfully grown bay laurel? Share your gardening tips.