The California Bay Leaf Is Unique

By Grace Rivas

Initially harvested in Asia and certain parts of the Mediterranean, Bay trees belong to the Evergreen tree family. When they grow wild, they typically measure between ten and fifteen feet tall. USDA Zones 8 to 10 are the areas in which these trees grow best. For this reason, individuals searching for California bay leaf will discover that the spice is easy to locate. Its most common use is to season various dishes.

The aforementioned trees are best grown in shady areas. Frequent watering is necessary, but allowing water to pool around the roots of the trees is unwise. Instead, one should ensure that an appropriate drainage outlet is provided. Young trees of this kind are fragile, and therefore should be protected from elements such as strong winds and storms. This is why immature trees should be kept in planters until it is time to place them in the ground.

Bay leaves are dark green in color and their surfaces are covered with an oil-like substance. This is why they emit a strong scent. They feature an elliptical shape, and are about 3-4 inches long. Yellow flowers typically surround the leaves on the aforementioned trees during the spring season. After the flowers fall from the female trees, they produce black, shiny berries. However, the latter are not safe for human consumption. Therefore, during harvesting, it is essential to separate the leaves from the berries.

The aforementioned leaf is one of the oldest spices in the world. After the leaves are picked, they must be dried for several weeks if their full, robust flavor is to be achieved. Whole leaves are frequently used for flavoring various stews and soups, while crushed leaves are best for seasoning vegetables and meats.

The taste of the spice is strong, pungent and bitter. The leaves can be eaten directly if one so desires. However, because of their potent flavor, most individuals prefer to use them as seasonings, as mentioned above. Certain individuals who use the spice for health reasons may add one or two bay leaves to hot water and drink the mixture as tea.

In most cases, only a little of the spice is necessary, as the flavor is so intense. For example, if one is seasoning stew, a single leaf is typically more than enough to achieve the desired results. When the crushed spice is used to season vegetables or meat, a quarter of a teaspoon is usually sufficient.

Such leaves should be stored in shady areas in containers that can be tightly sealed. This is because direct sunlight can cause them to lose their potent flavor. If stored properly, however, they will retain their flavor for two years in most cases.

California bay leaf seasoning blends are available dried, ground, or fresh. However, it is essential to realize that ground leaves must be stored in airtight containers or they will quickly lose their unique aroma. If dried leaves are being used, one should select leaves that are still green. After turning brown, they usually become very bitter and are not tasty. This unique spice can be found online or in conventional stores, but in order to ensure one chooses the best product, he or she should comparison shop. Those who use this interesting and tasty spice as a seasoning will almost certainly enjoy the results.

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