Cooking With Bay Leaves
The aromatic flavour of Bay leaves is used to round off soups and
gravies, fish and meat dishes or to marinate venison. It is also an
ingredient that can't be missed when pickling the likes of cucumbers or
Add the whole leaf while cooking and remove it before serving. You can use dried or fresh leaves.
How To Grow The Bay Leaf Plant
Being of Mediterranean origin the Bay Laurel tree likes well drained soils. Avoid places that are exposed to cold, drying winds.
The Bay laurel is hardy to -10 C/14 F for short periods so they might not be suitable for areas with very harsh winters. Sun or part shade is ideal for a Bay Leaf plant.
Bay Leaf plants can successfully be grown in containers for years and
years. Mature plants of course need a large container which can be a
problem if you have to shift the containers into a sheltered place for
They can be shaped easily into either pyramids or ball shapes. Trim
them in late summer and of course use the clippings for drying.
Allow young trees to grow and build up strength before you start using the leaves or shaping it. Otherwise the plant will be stunted and grows very slowly.
Never let your Bay tree go too dry for a prolonged time!
Once the leaves have withered the plant will die! So remember to
water your plant at least twice a week. Large plants in small containers
need more regular checking during the hot summer months.
Overwintering Bay Trees
If you live in a very cold climate (below -10 C/14 F for a long
period) you have to overwinter your bay tree somewhere inside. The place
for this should not be too warm, maximum up to 15 C/60 F.
Choose a bright place with lots of light. An unheated stairwell, cool
conservatory or glasshouse is ideal. Reduce the watering to once a
Check this page for more tips on over-wintering herbs.
Harvesting And Preserving
You can harvest the leaves any time you need them. There is no need
to dry them before using them although some people claim that the flavor is better if you do so. I use them both ways. If I run out of
dried ones I just use the fresh ones.
Best time to collect loads of the leaves is of course when you trim your bay tree.
Dry the leaves individually on a tray in a shaded but warm place.
Once they are dry store them in an airtight container. You can also tie
some branches into little bunches and hang them upside down until they
Pests and Diseases
Scale Insects can be a real problem particularly if you keep
your Bay Leaf plant inside. This pest is difficult to treat successfully
because you always miss a few of the little buggers and it starts all
They sit on the underside of the leaves, on top and on the branches.
Look out for brown little scales that sit near the center rib of the
leaves and on the stems.
The best way to get rid of them is to spray the whole plant
thoroughly from top to bottom with an organic pest spray that contains
fatty acids. Then follow up with beneficial insects. They will kill the
ones that you have missed.
The problem with a scale insect infestation is that you will get a black fungus growing on the sugar that the scales excrete.
This is a sure sign that you are dealing with scale insects. Leaves
that are covered with a sticky layer of fungus are not very appetizing.
Position: sun to part shade
Watering: water regularly
Feeding: every 2 weeks
Propagation: from cuttings
Cooking: add leaves while cooking
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