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lesliec

Bay laurel seeds/fruit

18 posts in this topic

Bay trees grow wild where I live (I understand many were planted, along with oaks and a few other things, along property boundaries years ago in honour of soldiers returning from one or both World Wars, but they spread madly and now they're everywhere). I use their leaves a lot, in ice cream (very nice!) or infused oil, but at this time of year they're dropping their seeds all over the place:

Bay seeds.jpg

The two brown spotty ones lower left are the seeds after a few days; the others still have a thin layer of 'fruit' on them.

There's so many of these things and they look so useful it occurred to me to wonder if anybody has heard of a culinary use for them (Google appears not to have, but then I didn't spend four hours looking). They have a subtle bay smell on their own; they look as though they'd grate like nutmeg.

Has anybody ever seen them used, or heard of such a thing?


Leslie Craven, aka "lesliec"
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This site claims that the fruits are included in commercial spice mixtures.
http://www.seedaholic.com/laurus-nobilis-bay-leaf-laurel.html

This site gives instructions for gathering and roasting California bay nuts, and says that they were part of the diet of California native tribes. The authors say the roasted nuts will give you a buzz like caffeine.
http://www.paleotechnics.com/Articles/Bayarticle.html

Last but not least, our USDA says that California indigenous peoples roasted and ground bay nuts into a meal, then formed into small cakes to be served with clover, seaweed, buckeye meal, or acorn meal and mush. The ground meal could also be made into a beverage that tastes like chocolate. (One researcher's opinion that it tastes like chocolate.)
http://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_umca.pdf

Bon appetit!

Interesting question, BTW. Many California bay around here, of course, and I totally ignore them for cooking. I have a small Mediterranean bay tree in a container on my patio. So far it has yielded leaves, but no fruits.

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interesting, never even considered the fruit/nut! I'll be heading up the mountain next week where tons of these grow, have to pick some up! Still want to plant one too, have a Mediterranean in the yard, want both. I tend to pick a branch or two when hiking, but I prefer to use the leaves fresh.


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Well, the things one learns on eGullet - I had no idea before that there were such things as California bays. I'm pretty sure mine are the 'classical' bay (Laurus nobilis) but it's fascinating to learn about other kinds, however similar.

The photo from the second link in djyee100's post suggests the California bay's fruits are a lot bigger than mine and, since the two species don't seem to be related, I think I should do some more research before trying mine as food.

Thanks, peoples. Anybody else, feel free to chime in.


Leslie Craven, aka "lesliec"
Host, eG Forumslcraven@egstaff.org

After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relatives ~ Oscar Wilde

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More info about fruit of laurus nobilis (Mediterranean bay). Apparently the dried fruit can be used as a spice. The fruit appears edible but not particularly appetizing as a food (see medicinal uses).

http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Laurus+nobilis

The first link in my previous post also mentions using the fruit of the Medit bay in spice mixtures.

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Are the leaves on your plant wavy-edged and dark green? Or entirely straight-edged, more pointy and (a lighter) green? What does the fruit stalk look like at the point of attachment to the fruit body? Size of fruit? (you might want to confirm that the size of the fruit you have corresponds to Laurus nobilis fruit; I wonder if water availability or subspecies might affect fruit size)

Some additional links:

http://www.clovegarden.com/ingred/laurel.html#bay

http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=LANO80

http://calphotos.berkeley.edu/cgi/img_query?query_src=photos_index&where-taxon=Laurus+nobilis

http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=UMCA

http://calphotos.berkeley.edu/cgi/img_query?query_src=photos_index&where-taxon=Umbellularia+californica

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Thanks, guys (and/or gals). Here's a shot of one of the trees:

Bay.jpg

The little lumpy things are (I presume) new flowers. The fruits are no more than about a centimetre long. Looking at some of the photos from Huiray's last link, the Californian fruits seem much bigger. The leaves on mine seem fairly smooth-edged at the moment, but the Californian ones look smoother and narrower. My memory is our leaves get a bit more wavy as they mature; we're not too long out of their annual growth spurt at the moment. We have two main trees either side of the house, one much bigger than the other. I learn from djyee100's last post that bays are male or female, so maybe that's part of the reason. Although they do self-sow like mad, so I'm inclined to think the smaller one is just younger.

Anyway, it certainly seems I'm not going to poison anybody if I experiment. Thanks for your help.

And I really recommend making bay ice cream. 10 or so leaves in 250ml each milk and cream with 150g sugar, bring to a simmer, remove from heat and allow to infuse for an hour or so. Bring back to a simmer, temper six egg yolks, keep stirring to about 90°C then sieve into another 250ml cream. Allow to cool, then refrigerate overnight before churning. Lovely stuff.

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Leslie Craven, aka "lesliec"
Host, eG Forumslcraven@egstaff.org

After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relatives ~ Oscar Wilde

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I also have a small bay tree in the garden (European variety) and would be interested in any tips using fresh leaves in cooking as against dried eg is one stronger than the other.

Thanks

Andrew

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And I really recommend making bay ice cream. 10 or so leaves in 250ml each milk and cream with 150g sugar, bring to a simmer, remove from heat and allow to infuse for an hour or so. Bring back to a simmer, temper six egg yolks, keep stirring to about 90°C then sieve into another 250ml cream. Allow to cool, then refrigerate overnight before churning. Lovely stuff.

I'm tempted to give bay ice cream a try, using dried leaves that I have. "Ten or so" leaves sound like an lot however? One leaf I would think should yield a strong bay flavor.

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Sorry, Jo, should have been more specific - that's fresh leaves. I haven't tried dried ones but yes, I'd expect to have to use fewer. Let us know how your experiments turn out.

Andrew, that maybe answers your question too. In general dried herbs will give more flavour than fresh. I just have so many fresh bay leaves available we don't bother with dried ones any more.


Leslie Craven, aka "lesliec"
Host, eG Forumslcraven@egstaff.org

After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relatives ~ Oscar Wilde

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I have some well established Laurel nobilis (sweet bay, bay laurel, "Grecian laurel" and the leaves can vary considerably in size and shape.

California bay has a resinous, kerosene-like flavor and can be toxic i "excess" if one has liver or kidney disease the "excess" is not great...

MOUNTAIN LAUREL - mostly found in the mountains in eastern America and also in the Pacific northwest, is highly toxic - all parts of the plant are toxic to humans and animals - even goats, which don't seem to be bothered by foliage that would kill other animals.

Growing up in western Kentucky, where there were a lot of these bushes, we kids were warned not to pick and eat the red berries.

I never get to see the berries on my bushes because the birds love them. The flowers on true Laurel nobilis are tiny yellow clusters that don't even look like flowers unless you look with a magnifying glass.

Here's a couple of photos of one of my bushes showing the variation in leaves and a photo of leaves, ALL taken from the same stem.

The leaf at the top is probably three years old, the biggest two years old, the one in the middle from last year as is the smallest, with the two from this year a lighter green and still very soft and flexible.

They are very easy to dry. I just bring in a stem, strip off the leaves, toss them in a wire colander and leave it on the counter. If there are a lot of leaves I toss or stir them every day or so till they are dry enough to snap easily. For most recipes I will use 5 fresh bay leaves for 2 dried ones, unless they are exceptionally large.

Of this group, when I scrape the underside with a thumbnail, the tiny one has the strongest scent and the new growth from this year has the least.

You can see some brown spots on some of the leaves - I live in the high desert (SoCal) and we get hard freezes - it got down to 9 degrees F. this past January. The more exposed leaves get "frost burn"...

Laurel nobilis 1.JPG

Laurel nobilis 3.JPG


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Sorry it has taken a while, but the results were worth the wait!

http://forums.egullet.org/topic/144208-home-made-ice-cream-2013/page-5#entry1918218

Glad you liked it. It's a fascinating flavour in ice cream, isn't it?

Andie: You're right, the size of the leaves can be all over the place. Looks like you have some monsters, though. Ours are most commonly maybe 5-6 cm long - less than half your biggest one.


Leslie Craven, aka "lesliec"
Host, eG Forumslcraven@egstaff.org

After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relatives ~ Oscar Wilde

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Bit of a postscript to this topic: I've recently acquired a still and I'm making my own spirits (it's legal here, unlike most of the rest of the world). Quite promising after the first batch.

I came across a recipe for Liqueur de Laurier on this home distillers' site (scroll down a bit). Of particular interest is it calls for the seeds/berries rather than the leaves.

I shall report after I've made some more 95% raw ingredient!


Leslie Craven, aka "lesliec"
Host, eG Forumslcraven@egstaff.org

After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relatives ~ Oscar Wilde

My eG Foodblog

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I also have a small bay tree in the garden (European variety) and would be interested in any tips using fresh leaves in cooking as against dried eg is one stronger than the other.

Thanks

Andrew

I was going to post this warning after I started reading this thread, but you conveniently have asked the very question I have an answer for. I have personal experience of this: my father planted a bay leaf tree (not sure which kind, but he bought it from a nursery, so I'm assuming its an edible kind) in his back yard, so we have regular access to FRESH bay leaves. I made bean with bacon soup for him in the pressure cooker, and since fresh herbs are usually less strong than dried ones, used several leaves instead of one before I pressure cooked. Big mistake. Very bay-leafy mistake. I should have googled it first.

Unlike most herbs, where dried are stronger than bay leaf, bay leaves are FAR stronger fresh than dried. Lots more. Even though they'd only been pressure cooked with the soup a few minutes, my good old pressure cooker had extracted tons of bay leaf flavor into the soup. I had to double or triple the beans so we could eat it, and even then we ate it only because of my father's apparently high tolerance for bay leaf flavor. Since then, if I want to use fresh bay leaf, I use less than the called for amount of dried, and even then, I don't cook it for long periods in the dish, and certainly don't pressure cook it, I just dip the leaf in, let it swirl around for a few minutes on "simmer" and then immediately take it out.

Its easy enough to dry the leaves, however, even without a dehydrator. I clean them off, then lay them on a wire rack for a few days, maybe a week, then put them in an empty glass spice jar, lid off, for a while longer. They've quite lost that massive punch after a couple of weeks, and I use them like normal commercially dried bay leaves.

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For the sake of comparison, here's a pic of a small plant of Laurus nobilis I got from a nursery/herb garden I trust.

 

DSCN2393a_800.jpg

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Back to the topic, people - it's seeds, not leaves!

 

Anyway, I fear I've been very slack in reporting my further experiments with the seeds from our big tree.  See the Infusions and Tinctures topic for a full report, but briefly: the seeds make a really nice digestif at 'only' around 25% alcohol.

 

I have another (double) batch just about ready to bottle.


Leslie Craven, aka "lesliec"
Host, eG Forumslcraven@egstaff.org

After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relatives ~ Oscar Wilde

My eG Foodblog

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