Tender long-lived shrub or small tree

Culinary & Ornamental

Tree form grows to 40 feet high or more

As a shrub, can be maintained to 2 to 8 feet high with equal spread

Full Sun to Partial Shade

Almost any well-drained soil

Sweet Bay, (Grecian Laurel)
Laurus nobilisAlthough not technically an herb, bay is often described by herbalists as the most beautiful, the most fragrant and the most versatile, due to its many uses. Bay was first an herb of the poets, but later associated oracles,warriors, statesmen and doctors.Over time, bay gained the reputation of protecting against natural and human disasters. It was once believed that lighting would not strike where bay was planted.

The medicinal uses of the herb have always been important. Bay was used to protect against epidemics. Culpeper, the English 17th Century medical astrologer, said that bay berries were “effectual against the poisons of all venomous creatures and the sting of wasps and bees.” Oil from the berries was rubbed on sprains and used as ear drops. Perhaps because the tree is resistant to diseases and pests, and supposedly protects nearby plants as well, its leaves are reputed to repel fleas, lice, moths and even bugs that hatch in flour and grains.

Bay has spice note; warm, somewhat fennel-like sweet, spicy with reminiscence of metallic.

Planting & Care.

Plant from containers available at a nursery. Sweet bay accepts almost any kind of soil and tough conditions but prefers well-drained soils and regular moisture. Locate in a sunny sheltered spot.  It does not like temperatures below 40F in winter.

Harvesting and Use.

Most herbs give off their flavor in a short cooking time, whereas bay leaf enriches a soup, stew or slow cooking dish over a period of hours. That is why bay leaves go in at the start of spaghetti sauce, and basil and oregano are added at the end. Use the leaves whole, then remove when the dish is served. Leaves do not reduce in volume, and if chopped can be unpleasantly tough to chew. Use leaves in stews, roasts, casseroles and pate`s.

Bay is also a sodium slasher, it is being tested at the Human Nutrition Research Center, in Beltsville, MD, for its potential in helping diabetics. So far they have run tests in test-tubes and bay beats insulin’s ability to break down blood sugar by 3 times!

In the Caribbean Islands, bay is used in three beverages. Peppermint leaf brewed with bay tastes like spicy mint. Hot chocolate with bay leaf is milky and thick with an all-spice type aroma. Finally, they serve stout beer and combine seaweed and bay leaf and it tastes like salty dark beer with a lemon twist.

It is also great added to a hot cereal!

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