Bay Leaves

Harvesting and preserving your fruit & veg

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Stravaig
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Bay Leaves

Postby Stravaig » Sun Nov 03, 2019 11:07 am

As a keen cook, I often use bay leaves in soups and stews, etc, but I've always just bought dried bay leaves from the supermarket.

Last year I bought a small bay leaf shrub from a UK garden centre and have carefully looked after it. Now it's taller than I am! And it's growing upwards at an alarming rate. :lol: Yeah, I have heard of Google but you guys are much better for answers so here are my questions if anyone would be so kind as to help me out.

I no longer have the botanical name of the shrub but vaguely remember it was a "laurel" of some kind. I feel sure the leaves must be edible, which is why I bought it in the first place, but have no wish to risk poisoning myself or anyone else.

Q1: Is there anything I should beware of?

It's growing skywards and I feel sure I ought to be pruning it to make it bushier.

Q2: What's the best way to prune it?

I expect I'll need to hack off a lot of it. At least a foot or more off several stems.

Q3: Assuming it's edible, what's the best way to dry the leaves? I have a dehydrator which will probably do the job.

I have a friend who's a keen cook and I'd like to give some of my home-grown bay leaves to him - but not if they might poison him!
It seems daft to keep buying dried bay leaves when I could have such a rich harvest of them from my own plant. I'd be glad of your advice.

Thanks in advance.
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Re: Bay Leaves

Postby Monika » Sun Nov 03, 2019 6:15 pm

On pruning: you can chop a bay tree back quite hard but I would do that in late spring, not now.

If you are sure it IS a bay (and not a decorative laurel which could be poisonous, both are Laurus), I find the best way to preserve the leaves is to freeze them. Just give the picked leaves a wipe with damp kitchen paper and then freeze them on a tray and bag them up. To check on it being a laurel, tear a leaf and smell the cut. It should smell strongly of bay.
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Re: Bay Leaves

Postby Geoff » Sun Nov 03, 2019 7:02 pm

As Monika says you can safely prune bay hard, they sprout again even from thick branches. The only trouble is it makes them angry and they grow like mad. Again I agree break a leaf and check the smell. Here is a picture of my tree if it helps. If it is your tree for your own use I wouldn't bother with preservation, just pick leaves when you want them. That's the joy of growing your own herbs, you can use fresh instead of dried for better flavour.

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Stravaig
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Re: Bay Leaves

Postby Stravaig » Mon Nov 04, 2019 7:54 am

Many thanks to both of you for your advice.

Geoff, my bay leaves look pretty much the same as yours. Thanks for the photo. However, there are two differences. Not all of my leaves have that crinkle-cut look at the edges. Many do but more of them have fairly smooth sides. Also, there's no sign of any of these little berries (or whatever the little round things are).

Having done a little online research, I'm now thinking that maybe I should wait for the plant to come into flower to make identification easier. But there's no sign at all of any buds. It's all just leaves, leaves, and more leaves.

I'll endeavour to get a photo of mine and post it.

PS: The poisonous varieties I've seen online both have lots of pretty flowers.
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Westi
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Re: Bay Leaves

Postby Westi » Mon Nov 04, 2019 7:12 pm

This is my Bay in a pot on the patio. Different to Geoff's, so maybe there are more than one edible variety? I've been eating this for years & still here & essential in stews! Being restricted in a pot keeps it a manageable size & I can just nip out for a leaf or 2 regardless of the weather.

Maybe sacrifice your giant & take cuttings to pot on & keep it potted & regain some garden space? It's not an unpleasant potted plant as remains green all year! Yep! It's still raining down here in Sunny Dorset!
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Re: Bay Leaves

Postby Primrose » Mon Nov 04, 2019 7:54 pm

It,s interesting that the leaves on these two photos are different, I,e one has distinctly serrated leaves, not vastly different from Mahonia leaves if I recall, and the other has smooth edged leaves.

I was given a tiny cutting of a smooth edged leaf variety a couple of years ago which I have in a pot and which has suddenly started to grow. after a year of sulking. It,s not really large enough for me to start taking leaves from it yet although I do think a few in a a stew or casserole do help to enhance the flavour.

Obviously important to ensure you're eating leaves that are non poisonous because interestingly I have a Magnolia Stellata bush in our garden. - the variety which has single white starlike flowers) and in spring the leaves when crushed have an aroma which seems very close to that of bay tree leaves. I don,t think they belong to the same family. I wouldn,t risk trying to eat the leaves but am curious, in view of fit having a similar aroma to know whether the leaves are poisonous or not. Does anybody know?
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Re: Bay Leaves

Postby Stephen » Tue Nov 05, 2019 7:02 pm

I had better check the bushes I have grown from cuttings!
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Re: Bay Leaves

Postby Westi » Tue Nov 05, 2019 7:24 pm

Maybe this should go on 'Ask the Team'? We are growing bay, but are we? Is there more than one variety? I hope so or I've just been lucky to date (or you), even though it does add a bay flavour & looks like the dried ones I bought before. Stravaig / Stephen - would you mind cutting & pasting? This is interesting & others reading will be in the same predicament & maybe we all need 'proper' advice & re-assurance! (I would but haven't a clue how)! :)
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Re: Bay Leaves

Postby robo » Tue Nov 05, 2019 7:58 pm

If you Google bay tree you will see quite a few different shaped leaves most are laurel
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Westi
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Re: Bay Leaves

Postby Westi » Wed Nov 06, 2019 7:55 pm

Hi Robo! I'm assuming you are telling me all are edible? x
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Re: Bay Leaves

Postby robo » Wed Nov 06, 2019 10:04 pm

Hi West , I would guess so all being laurel, if you try some and wake up dead I would say no
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Re: Bay Leaves

Postby Westi » Thu Nov 07, 2019 7:30 pm

Robo, you make me laugh! To my knowledge I'm still alive - although others might debate that!
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Re: Bay Leaves

Postby Geoff » Fri Nov 08, 2019 10:18 am

Meant to come back to this a day or two ago. I have two bay trees, the original one I posted has the best flavour but the other one has much smoother leaves so they vary quite a bit. Same flower buds though.

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Quite different to the potentially poisonous hedging called laurel.

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Westi
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Re: Bay Leaves

Postby Westi » Fri Nov 08, 2019 8:12 pm

So Geoff I'm still potentially facing death? Although mine doesn't look like real Laurel either - Whew! I'm sure we are all growing proper bay. Would be great though to get a definitive article in the KG magazine on Bay. It is a well used flavouring & we wouldn't want any new growers finding a look a like on their new plot & mis-identifying it!
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Re: Bay Leaves

Postby Stephen » Sat Nov 09, 2019 1:29 pm

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Pictures of what I have been told is Bay, much more like Geoff's. Particularly the flower buds.
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