Exploring The Bay Leaf
The Bay Tree (Laurus Nobilis) got its roots in Asia minor before migrating to the Mediterranean and eventually onto other countries with similar climates. The aromatic leaves of Sweet bay or Bay laurel have a pungent smell and a sharp flavor. Because of the bitter taste, they aren’t eaten directly but there are many uses and benefits of the Bay Leaf.
THE HISTORY OF BAY LEAF
The Greek word for laurel is dhafni; in Greek mythology, the Naiad nymph Daphne was changed into a Laurel tree by Gaea (mother earth) in order to help her escape Apollo’s attempted rape. Apollo made the tree sacred and it became a symbol of honor. The association with honor continues today where we have poet laureates and bacca-laureate which means laurel berries. Since 776 BC winners at Olympic games athletes were awarded laurel garlands and today Grand Prix winners are adorned with laurel wreaths.
The fresh leaves are a rich source of Vitamin C which is a powerful natural antioxidant that helps remove harmful free radicals from the body as well as act an immune booster and provide antiviral effects. They also contain a large amount of folic acid (B9) and Vitamin A along with other nutrients such as, niacin (B3), pyridoxine (B6), pantothenic acid (B5) and riboflavin (B2). These B-complex vitamins help in enzyme synthesis, nervous system function and regulating body metabolism.
Minerals such as copper, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, zinc, selenium and magnesium can be found in the leafy spice as well. Traditionally, the leaf is also used as a sedative, analgesic (painkiller), anticonvulsant/anti-seizure and anti-inflammatory.
Bay leaves are typically used throughout the world in a variety of foods, ranging from cream of wheat, breads, stews, sauces, courts-bouillons, soups, fish/meat/poultry seasoning and as a picking spice. When cooking, the leaf is used one of three ways; whole, crumbled or ground; the latter two methods unleash more flavor but the whole or crumbled leaves are usually removed from the dish before serving. In some cupboards and closets, you may find the leaves stashed away, to ward off insects and inhibit mold.
Claims have been made that when you burn bay leaves in a closed room and leave for 10 minutes, on returning the smoke of the herb makes your mind and muscles relaxed.