Dry bay leaf
ORGANIC BAY LEAF
A bay leaf is a fragrant leaf from a laurel tree that is used as an herb. Bay leaves can be used fresh or dried; dried bay leaves tend to have a slightly stronger flavor.
Identifying the Bay Leaf
Fresh bay leaves are shiny dark green on their tops with a duller, lighter green underside. When they're dried, they look pretty much the same on both sides. Bay leaves come from the bay laurel plant. Bay laurel is an evergreen shrub or plant that grows slowly and in warm climates. The bay laurel plants can be grown for ornamental uses, and the leaves can then be dried and used in cooking.
Cooking With Bay Leaves
Bay leaves can be used in many types of cuisines. Most often, recipes call for dried bay leaves. While the flavor results of fresh vs. dried bay leaves are not that different, fresh bay leaves are often much more expensive and do not last as long as dried bay leaves.
Bay leaves are not generally eaten but are rather simmered in a sauce or included in a braising liquid, and then removed before serving. A bay leaf is sometimes ground into a powder and used almost like a spice.
In addition to simmering them in soups and stews, bay leaves are great for stuffing into the cavity of a chicken before roasting it, and they can be added to the liquid for cooking rice.
In the Caribbean
Bay leaves are used for cooking rice dishes, soups and stews in the Caribbean, just as they are in other parts of the world. They're most prized when cooked in porridge, such as with oats or plantains.
Bay leaves are also used to make tea — you can brew a pot with just the bay leaf, with bay leaf and lemongrass, or with bay leaf and cocoa.
Although bay leaves are prized in the West Indian kitchen, they're also used in other parts of the home as well, serving as air fresheners and an insect repellent. Fresh bay leaves may be strewn in pantries and cupboards to keep bugs away. Because they're always available, replenishing this natural air freshener and insect repellent is never a problem.
The Caribbean has a rich heritage of folk medicine, and you can still find older folk recommending a hot cup of bay leaf tea to lower blood pressure. Bay leaves are also said to help with digestive problems and headaches. Additionally, it's said bay leaves can work against muscle aches and pains, and the oil in the leaves has been found to contain anti-bacterial properties.