Where Do Bay Leaves Come From? Fascinating Food Facts For Kids | Kidadl


Where Do Bay Leaves Come From? Fascinating Food Facts For Kids

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Did you know that bay leaves are not only used in cooking various recipes, but also for medicinal purposes?

It is common to see a whole bay leaf in numerous dishes, especially soups and stews. However, this leaf is used for numerous other purposes and even has a wonderful, rich history!

Bay leaves are extremely useful leaves that come from the sweet bay tree or the bay laurel tree. These leaves are also known as laurel leaves. They are very popular as seasoning or spice in many recipes and have a bitter taste themselves but can enhance or intensify the flavor of the dish they are used in, as well as give a nice, fragrant smell.

Although thought to be native to the Mediterranean region, bay leaves found their importance in Ancient Greece and Rome as a symbol of honor. Wreaths made of these leaves were awarded to political leaders, war heroes, and winners of sporting competitions as they stood for accomplishment and merit in a certain field. The leaves were thought to protect those who possessed them from the devil and lightning. Physicians were also given laurel wreaths so they could be blessed by the Greek Gods, Apollo and Aesculapius, Gods of healing and medicine, respectively. The bay laurel tree has also been mentioned in a few other stories or myths in Greek mythology.

Even in modern times, words derived from the bay laurel tree and the beliefs surrounding it are used to award individuals for their great performance in a certain field. For example, the term 'baccalaureate' is used as a merit of distinction given to a person with a bachelor's degree. Similarly, the term 'poet laureate' also dates back to Ancient Greece and Rome, and is given to a person for their poetic and literary excellence.

If you want to know about the origin of other things we see and use in our daily life, be sure to check out our articles on where do beans come from and where do eggs come from as well!

Which plant does bay leaf come from?

The famous bay leaf comes from the bay laurel tree, which is also called the sweet bay tree. It has the scientific name Laurus nobilis, and it is part of the family Lauraceae. It is a very slow-growing, beautiful, aromatic, and evergreen tree that can grow very tall, up to the height of 30-60 ft (9-18 m) and around 15 ft (4.5 m) wide.

It is possible to plant a sweet bay tree in your garden if you live in the perfect climate need for this plant to thrive. If you live in the U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8-11, it will be very easy for you to take care of this herb as it loves warm temperatures. In the plant hardiness zone eight, it can be planted in the ground in full sun, but in warmer temperatures than that, it will need to be kept in partial shade as it is difficult for this plant to live in hot weather. On the other hand, in colder temperatures, the plant should be moved indoors during the winter to a location where it will be able to get enough light. Thus, if you live in a cold climate, it is best to plant your sweet bay plant in a pot-like container so you can easily move the pot or container once it starts to get cold.

These plants need well-drained soil, with regular applications of compost or other organic matter and watering. Propagation of this plant is possible by planting seeds in the fall, cuttings, and air-layering on new growth but it is a difficult task and it is best for amateur gardeners to buy a young bay tree from a nursery. The plant can grow very tall so it should be pruned at least twice a year to keep it at your desired height, once in early spring and once at the end of summer.

The plant is sure to look extremely beautiful in your garden and the leaves it will grow will have many culinary and medicinal uses. The plant will even form small clusters of yellow or white flowers in the spring. These will go on to form black or purple berries in the fall that contain the seeds of the plant.

How many plant species of bay leaf are present?

There are a few other bay trees and plants within the Lauraceae family, whose leaves are considered similar to or as a substitute for the bay leaves of Laurus nobilis. These are the Indian bay leaf (Cinnamomum tamala), Mexican bay leaf (Litsea glaucescens), and the California laurel (Umbellularia californica).

The most popular bay leaf tree, Laurus nobilis, is native to the Mediterranean, this tree and its other forms are cultivated in other parts of the world too, such as North America, Russia, Turkey, India, France, Italy, and Spain. Leaves of these other plant species have a slightly different taste and fragrance than bay leaves of the Mediterranean bay leaf, but overall have the same shape and all of them have similar culinary uses. However, the Indian bay leaf has the aroma of cinnamon and is often used as a garnishing herb rather than being used in cooking a dish.

How to use bay leaf?

Laurus Nobilis tree in nature.

From being made into laurel wreaths for competition winners in Ancient Greece and Rome to being used as an important ingredient in cooking delicious brines, sauces, and marinades to enhance their flavor, bay leaves have lots of uses.

Fresh or dried bay leaves are used whole as a seasoning in various stews, soups, sauces, marinades, stuffings, and fish. However, they are almost always removed before eating as the leaves themselves have a bitter taste, they only enhance the flavor of the meal cooked. Dried bay leaves may also be ground into a powder to be used as a spice. These laurel leaves are used as a part of the French seasoning mixture called the bouquet garni, which is a bundle of different herbs tied together and used to cook dishes like stews and soups, and is removed from them afterward.

Bay leaves also contain a lot of antioxidants, iron, magnesium, manganese, calcium, and potassium, thus making any recipe they are used in, not only tastier but also healthier. This is why bay leaf tea is considered to be very good for someone with heart problems. These leaves are also often kept in closets with clothes to prevent a pest infestation as well as a bad smell. These herbs are thought to be beneficial in treating many health problems and diseases such as arthritis, cancer, diabetes, and can even heal wounds.

The essential oil extracted from the berries of the sweet bay trees or plants is used to prepare perfumes, soaps, candles, and other cosmetics as these plants are pleasantly aromatic.

Are there any side effects of using bay leaves?

There are no known side effects of using bay laurel leaves in cooking as they are not poisonous but they should be removed before serving or eating the meal as it can be dangerous actually consuming them.

It is a misconception that leaves from bay laurel trees (Laurus nobilis) are poisonous, but this is because they are often confused with the leaves of cherry laurel, which are toxic to humans.

Although the actual bay leaf is leathery and smooth in texture, its edges are very sharp. Thus, if a fresh or dried bay leaf is ingested, it won't be digested but remain whole and cause cuts in the mouth or the lining of the intestines. Having a bay leaf tea is thought to be good for the heart but having it with a sedative medicine might cause drowsiness and sleepiness. Thus, bay leaves are not toxic or dangerous to humans if they are removed after the cooking process.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for where do bay leaves come from? Fascinating food facts for kids, then why not take a look at where do baby back ribs come from? Fun food facts for kids? or why do dogs like belly rubs? And why it is your dog's favorite thing?

Written By
Joan Agie

<p>With 3+ years of research and content writing experience across several niches, especially on education, technology, and business topics. Joan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Human Anatomy from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria, and has worked as a researcher and writer for organizations across Nigeria, the US, the UK, and Germany. Joan enjoys meditation, watching movies, and learning new languages in her free time.</p>

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