From Gourmand World Cookbook Award Winner, The Basic Art of Italian Cooking: Holidays & Special Occasions-2nd editon and The Basic Art of Italian Cooking by Maria Liberati tm BLOG
Italian life and its vast cooking culture, concentrate on a few central ingredients that, without them, many a delicious dish would be lacking flavor and, therefore, incomplete. In Mediterranean cuisine, this is certainly the case with the bay leaf, or the aromatic leaf of the Bay Laurel, which is often used to flavor soups, stews, braises, and more. Read on to find out more about the bay leaf and what it’s really all about.
The bay leaf has been cultivated for flavoring for thousands of years; since the beginning of recorded history. Its origins are within Asia Minor, but it quickly spread to the Mediterranean and other countries with warm climates, as bay leaf does not thrive in cold climates. Fun fact: the bay leaf comes from the laurel tree that is a significant symbol in both Greece and Rome. The laurel is a central aspect of many ancient mythologies that depict the tree as a symbol of honor.
Bay leaves are extremely pungent and have a sharp, bitter taste that has made them a mainstay among spices and also a fixture in the cooking of European and North American cuisines. Bay leaves can easily be bought at your local supermarket, or, if you’re looking for another gardening project, bay leaves can be cultivated indoors or outdoors (although not during cold weather!). Although the laurel tree can grow up to forty feet tall, bay lead can be potted and seldom grows taller than six inches. You can also look into bay topiaries, which can certainly look elegant on a deck or patio.
However, bay leaf can sometimes be picky about its living conditions. If you’re planning to grow it outside, make sure to use rich, well-drained soil with decent sun exposure that allows room for growth. Bay can last for several decades, so, before planting outside, give its location some thought. For indoor plants, make sure the plant get plenty of sun but avoid placing the plant in drafts or overly hot areas. Despite the efforts made to adhere to bay leafs conditions, it’s certainly worth it when you end up with a healthy, shiny plant that’s a beautiful addition to your home and whose leaves can be dried to deliciously season your meals.