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I am not a particularly keen gardener but I have always grown my own herbs and have successfully kept a bay tree for many years. It certainly therefore falls into the easy to grow and maintain category!
The bay tree or laurus nobilis can be grown either in pots or in the ground. Mine had always been kept in a pot with no problems.
It is an evergreen shrub with dark green foliage which can be clipped into shape if you prefer a more formal looking plant for the front door or patio. I have never clipped mine so it has a natural shape. They are fairly slow growing and if kept in a pot they stay fairly small. I have read however that they can grow to over 7 meters if planted in the ground.
Bay trees prefer sunny spots but also seem to do fine in part shade. As long as you water them regularly they will survive although feeding, repotting and pruning are beneficial.
Although I have never tried it myself, bay trees can be proposed from seed or cuttings in late summer.
Bay trees will flower in spring although mine has never produced any flowers.
I love to be able to pick fresh leaves for cooking but I also pick a stock of leaves, dry them in paper towel in the microwave and then store in an airtight container. We eat quite a few casseroles and they are very useful for these recipes.
I would recommend growing a bay tree if you like to cook or if you are looking for an easy small tree for a container.
I have a bay tree sitting outside my kitchen window, in a pot, he is very happy as I have provided him with plenty of sun in a well drained soil, that is not too heavy or acidic. At the moment he is about 1 foot tall and about 30cms wide at the base, he tapers to a point and is growing new fresh leave all the time. During March, April, May and June he produced little white delicate flowers. The older leaves are dark green and shiny and the new growth is light green. As he is currently quite small I have not clipped him into a shape, as topiary is a popular way of making your bay trees into fine architectural works of art for your garden, I think I am going to see how he grows before I start shaping him into something he is not. During the spring is the best time to trim a bay tree.
Bay trees are can be tricky to grow as when they get older they are more prone to the effects of frost and become less adaptable to changing conditions, so it is important to try and maintain a happy balance for your plant, in that I mean not too sunny, as bit of shade will not hurt and also sheltered positions during the winter months.
Bay is used as herb in many different dishes and has a slightly menthol, woody taste that can be bitter sweet, so a little goes along way, too much and your dish will be very bitter. The bay leaf helps to flavour stews, soups and other dishes, but it is best know as a key component in a bouquet garni, which is essentially parsley, thyme and a bay leaf, tied together and used as a flavouring for soups and stews. Bay leaves can be used fresh or whole and if using the dried variety it will match the flavour of a fresh leave, unlike many other herbs that loose something of themselves when dried.
Overall I would recommend growing a bay tree or using bay leaves in cooking, they are easy to look after, look great and have a variety of different uses.
I always discounted the possibility of having a bay tree of my own, as 90 percent of my gardening is done in pots and re-cycled containers like dustbins and plastic storage boxes. Little did I know that a large-ish pot will sustain a bay tree quite happily, without having a 40 foot behemoth blocking all the light in your garden and causing shade disputes with the neighbours.
Bays are appealing in two main ways - firstly, they can be trained and pruned into all sorts of shapes which add a bit of character to your garden and secondly their leaves can be used in cooking - with a few poisonous exceptions, but I'll mention those later on.
It is possible to grow bay from seed, but it takes a good three or four years before the tree gets big enough for you to pluck off the odd leaf and throw into a soup or stew. I "cheated" and bought an 8 inch high rooted cutting from a garden centre for £5. That was three years ago, and I now have a thriving little bushy tree that is a foot and a bit tall and which this spring has been throwing out loads of new leaf buds.
If you buy a tree from a garden centre, be prepared to have your wallet lightened considerably. I've seen three foot high lollipop shaped standard (standard basically means it's been trained into a shape) bay trees for sale from anywhere between £15 to £30 - a lot of money for a few leaves plucked every now and again to use in cooking. Growing from seed is definitely the cheaper option - you can get roughly 5 to 10 seeds for around the £3 mark, although from what I've researched, bay tree seeds can be difficult to germinate and are prone to rotting before they start to sprout. With all this in mind, I'd recommend that the most cost effective option would be to do as I did and buy a very small tree - the smaller it is the cheaper it will be.
Once you get your little bay tree home, stand the pot in a bucket with enough water in to allow it to be sucked up into the bottom of the pot - the compost in the pot acts as a sponge and will "wick" up the water. Once the compost in the pot has had a good soak, it's ready for re-potting into a larger pot, or directly into the soil if you're lucky enough to have a big garden. Dig a deep hole about half a metre wide and fill with a good mix of compost and grit. Tease out some of the roots, then plant the tree into this and make sure that the soil mark on the base of the trunk gets planted to the same depth as it was in the pot. Firm it in and use a stake for support if you think it needs it for stability.
If you're going to do any pruning as your tree grows, it's best to do this in spring then the tree has all summer to produce new growth. Don't let the soil dry out over winter or over summer, and top dressings of rich compost will help the tree over the growing season. In winter, if the temperature is due to drop below minus 5 degrees, then the bay tree will need protecting. This is one of the benefits of growing bays in pots - you can move it indoors or into a greenhouse to protect it from the worst of the weather. If you can't move your bay, then try wrapping it in bubble wrap, newspaper or horticultural fleece which will act as blanket and raise its temperature by a few degrees.
PESTS AND DISEASES
If you grow bay in pots, it can suffer from being watered irregularly. Signs of this will show as brown leaves - just snip these off and water it more often. Bay trees can also be attacked by little insects called "bay suckers" (seriously!) that eat the leaves which will turn yellow, then brown, then eventually die. I'm loathe to suggest this as the use of chemicals will prevent you from eating the leaves, but chemical sprays are the best way to treat for this.
Bay leaves are used in bouquet garnis for soups, stews etc and also in Asian dishes like curries. You can use the leaves when they are either fresh or dried - the dried leaves are "stronger". Take the leaves out of the food before eating - they can be sharp and scratchy and might do some damage to your stomach if swallowed. I always add a few bay leaves when I make my own stock from a chicken carcass, again removing them before I pour the stock into jars / bottles. If you're a bit more adventurous, people flavour olive oil with bay leaves in bottles, and also make their own pickled eggs - again with bay leaves in the jars. Before you do any sort of pickling or preserving using bay leaves though, give them a wash and sterilise all your jars / bottles etc to reduce the chances of the dreaded botulism - research it for your own piece of mind.
Some people use dried bay leaves like moth balls in their wardrobes - they contain lauric acid which acts as an insecticide. I prefer to use them in cooking - they contain chemicals that reduce blood sugar levels, reduce the effects of stomach ulcers, treat migraines, act as an antibacterial and anti fungicide and also have anti inflammatory properties.
Bay is part of the laurel family, some of which contain cyanide in the leaves, so the non-edible types of bay should be avoided - they include cherry laurel, Portuguese laurel and mountain laurel. Check with the garden centre if you're unsure before you eat any of the leaves. The best type for eating is the Mediterranean Bay Laurel, or Laurus Nobilis.
A fairly easy tree to look after which can be pruned into decorative shapes, I'd say that the bay tree is more of a "nice to have" than a "need to have" in your garden as it can grow very tall if not kept constrained in a pot. If you're looking to start growing your own herbs, I'd recommend something slightly easier like parsley to try first, and if you get the hang of that, then next year be a bit more adventurous and go for a laurel tree. I'd also recommend the easier and quicker, but more expensive, option of buying a small tree rather than trying to grow your own from seed. Overall, I'd rate it four out of five stars - can't bring myself to give it the full five for the fact that it can grow into a massive tree which could dominate your garden and isn't as compact as growing a strawberry plant in a hanging basket. Thanks for reading.
I have wrote several reviews recently on some of the herbs that we grow in our garden, that even I, who am not green fingered, can get invovled in. One such herb/plant that can be harvested all year round and thus is a real money saving winner is Bay.
Bay is an evergreen and can be grown in either a pot or in the ground. We grow ours in a pot, simply because our garden is not huge, and by growing it in a pot, its growth is restricted and thus much more manageable. If you are not interested in growign Bay as a herb then it is also very popular as an 'ornamental' plant as it can be shaped to your own liking such as in the shape of a pyramind for example. It does need to be tamed however and managed, otherwise it will become unshapely and bushy.
Bay is classed as a hardy perennial and once planted should last for many years, which is a brilliant way of both reducing your costs of buying such herbs but also you will always have it, if you want to bring keep it as a decorative plant. You do need to be careful however if you get a winter as severe as last year, as although it is pretty hardy, it will not withstand the extreme cold that we faced last winter, and should be taken into a greenhouse or the like during such as spell, otherwise you will be looking at buying a new plant.
If it is your first time planting bay, this you would be advised to wait to the Spring, making sure the last of the frosts are past, and giving it a good start when it starts to warm up a bit. As I said, we have our bay in a pot, and my husband would usually give it some liquid plant feed every so often, although less so during the winter. If you are using it as decoration in your garden, I have read before that you should prune the plant carefully rather than taking clipping shears as edges that has been broken can brown, which takes away from the pretty looking shaped plant.
With bay, there isn't the same number of varieties as you get with other herbs, in fact, as far as I am aware there really is only one variety giving long oval shaped leaves that have a recognised fragrance when cooking. Like most herbs, the fresh variety are a lot more fragrant than the dried variety, but when pickign for your kitchen make sure you only pick those leaves that are whole and not been browned or eaten.
We have never had any problems in terms of pests with our bay, and so this certainly has been a very easy, and practically self sufficient plant/herb to grow. A lot of casseroles use the likes of a bay leaf or two, and I have found it very useful over the last couple of years of growing this herb of being able to simply go out to the garden and picking as many as I want, rather than having to buy a whole jar of the dried variety or a fresh plant from the supermarket.
All in all, this herb/plant really takes little effort and gives you both a herb for cooking, as well as an ornamental looking plant when shaped to your liking. You certainly don't need to be green fingered to have this in even the smallest of gardens.
The sweet bay plant, also known as Laurus nobilis is an evergreen tree native to Mediterranean regions of Europe. Bay is a member of the myrtle family of plants, which also includes such aromatic members as myrtle and eucalyptus (you can also see the family resemblance when bay's bristly-looking little yellow-green flowers appear in summer), and like its relations, the leaves of bay have a pleasant, sweetly herbal aroma when crushed. Before the last ice age, much of southern continental Europe was covered in bay forests, with the dominant vegetation being comprised of a member of related species of bay. In the Med, these forests were felled / outcompeted by other species many thousands of years ago, although remnants of this unique and long-vanished ecosystem can be seen on isolated islands such as Madeira and the Canaries: drive a hire car just a little way off the beach-beaten-tracks in Tenerife into the island's mountainous hinterland, and you'll find yourself in spectacular, mostly native bay forests.
Sweet bay however is probably more familiar as a garden plant, where it's grown as a culinary herb for its leaves, or as a decorative shrub. Bay is quite slow-growing initially, but once established steadily increases in size and the mature trees, if left to their own devices can grow large - easily as much as four metres tall. The one I have in my garden for example started as a foot-high seedling from a car-boot sale and was a couple of metres tall after being in the garden for maybe five years. The tree in profile grown out as well as up; the footprint of mine (it's up against a fence) covers perhaps a metre and a half round on the ground.
Bay trees seem quite amenable to being pruned or shaped into exotic forms; grown in containers you often see pairs of 'lollipop' trimmed standard bay trees flanking either side of the doorway at the entrance to restaurants, interior design shops etc. So by judicious pruning - if you like that kind of thing - you can remove any superfluous branches from the bottom of the stem to create an area of bare trunk. Sometimes people train the trunk using wires into a conical spiral shape, etc., the bark of bay being smooth and dark grey and quite attractive looking. The evergreen, leathery leaves are elongate and dark green coloured on top and light green below, with a dull gloss to the upper surface.
If you have a bay tree of any size in your garden, you'll never be short of bay leaves to use in cooking. Fresh or dried, they go well added to chicken stock and to give extra flavour to béchamel or cheese sauce in liquid type dishes, and also in roasted dishes in the oven. As the leaves are quite leathery and dry even when fresh, they dry out very well for storage (if you can't be bothered going out into the garden to pick fresh ones, say if it's raining!) with very little effort - I leave a few at the back of the kitchen worktop and they dry out there perfectly well just left on their own. In a restaurant on holiday we were once served skewered meat cooked on pencil-thick sticks cut from a bay plant. I can't say the aroma from the bay made much difference to the taste of the dish, but as they'd clearly been reusing the bay skewers at that place (the sharpened ends were all blunt) that could be the reason for that. This could be a nice thing to do with fresh bay for a barbecue.
Bay plants are easy to propagate from 'heeled' cuttings a few inches long peeled off from the parent plant. The flexible stems also lend themselves to being bent (and self-secured) into circular shapes (if you have a big enough plant to take them from) - like the original 'laurel wreath'. And if you don't have a bay plant already in your garden, you occasionally see them as mature trees in municipal parks & gardens - and can 'harvest' a few fresh leaves for culinary use from there. Because of their aromatic scent when crushed, bay leaves are pretty much unmistakeable, although there is a commonly-encountered garden look-a-like called Phylleria that crops up almost as frequently in gardens as bay proper. I believe Phylleria is a relative of bay and the two plants are very similar looking, in growth form as well as down to the level of the shiny, leathery, evergreen leaves. Phylleria leaves don't have any aromatic scent however, and I don't know about their edibility so I certainly wouldn't try cooking with them.
Quite a few years ago I decided to treat myself to an ornamental Bay tree ( Laurus Nobilis ), I had been admiring them for many a moon but I had always turned heel because I thought it was an extravagance that I could do without. That statement is partially true but that Bay tree has now become a part of the family and after standing on sentry duty at the back door for a few years it has become a good friend too.
When I first bought the ornamental Bay it was young and it looked a little spindly but after paying somewhere around the £40 mark for it I was desperate for it to survive and thrive. I have repotted the ornamental Bay tree to make sure that it has plenty of room to breathe and after a little bit of research I decided to repot it using John Innes No 2 compost which seems to suit it well.
The second time that I repotted my Bay I noticed that it had become slightly potbound, I was very loathe to cut off the gangly roots so I decided to seek advice before I did, the advice given was that the odd couple of roots that were dangling from the bottom of the pot could be removed without harming the tree what so ever but if the Bay is heavily potbound then you need to leave them or it may harm the tree and stem the growth.
Ornamental Bay trees are attractive but they do need a `tidy up` in the Spring. I like to prune my Bay back into shape but I never cut very much of the beautiful foliage away. My Bay stands about 5 feet tall and it has a good bushy head. Luckily I have had little trouble keeping it healthy - fingers crossed.
When it has been pruned I give it some fish blood and bone meal and periodically throughout the year I feed it with an ordinary fertiliser.
As we enter December the weather has taken a real turn for the cold and my Bay may stand in a relatively sheltered place but it hates the cold weather. It will seem very strange but I have a thick but lightweight cover ( made from an old bedspread ) and before I go to bed I will cover the head of the Bay tree to protect it from any hard frost. My way of saying thank you for growing !
You can introduce shape into an ornamental Bay tree ( Topiary ) but that usually means pruning the Bay tree twice a year as opposed to the normal once.
I love to see the head of my Bay filled with lush dark green leaves and I would be very reluctant to shape it too much.
There is one important thing that you have to bear in mind, the head of your ornamental Bay tree has to balance with the base, so the pot needs to be large enough to accommodate the weight of the head of the tree.
The Bay should be able to collect enough natural water to keep itself going but if we hit a particularly dry spell then do take time to check it out, if it is bone dry then give it a drink.
Bay is used for many things, it is widely used as a fragrant herb, the leaves are used in many herbal remedies, the leaves can act as an air freshener and florists frequently use Bay to add to bouquets or to wire into wreaths.
My Bay tree is sheerly there for my enjoyment and that is why I bought it. I have never used the leaves for anything, in fact they always look rather tough and leathery.
My ornamental Bay tree is one of my prized possessions.
Ovid relates the story of Daphne, metamorphosed into a Bay tree by her father, the river god Peneus, to avoid the amorous advances of Apollo on his triumphant return from killing the ancient serpent, Python.
~0~ Identification ~0~
Bay is native to the Mediterranean region and has the latin name "Laurus nobilis" according to Linnaean classification: Laurus = "praise", nobilis = 'famous', excellent or 'notable'. The plant is also known as Sweet Bay, Bay Laurel, Roman Bay, Roman Laurel or Daphne.
Bay is a vigorous, densely branched evergreen with dark grey or black trunk. It has aromatic elongated, shiny, hairless, dark-green leaves up to about 13 cm (5 inches) long and up to 5 cm (2 inches) across which are carried on short dark red stems. The leaves have small oil glands on the underside. In spring single fragrant, cream/greenish-white, cushion shaped flowers with tiny petals grow at the base of leaves; these are much loved by pollinating bees. The female flowers each develop a single small, dark coloured berry containing a seed. All parts of the plants are pungent, more especially when crushed, heated or burned.
Under the right conditions, Bay can grow to 12 m (forty feet) in height with a spread of up to 10 m (thirty feet) even in this country. The plant tends to sucker, especially if the roots are disturbed, giving it a bushy and slightly pyramidal appearance, rather than growing as a single stemmed tree. This enables it to quickly colonise a large area.
The plant is often clipped into a topiary shape: sometimes a pyramid, sometimes a spiral or a standard pompom. The flexible trunk can be trained into a variety of shapes: more often than not it is twisted into a corkscrew spiral, or plaited (3 plants needed for this). Fairly rapid growth ensures the bush keeps a tight green shape although, as with all evergreens, some leaves are lost in the spring during the period of the most rapid growth.
~0~ Cultivation ~0~
~ My experience ~
It's generally recommended that Bay is a fairly tender plant that should be protected in winter; in my experience it can withstand several inches of snow right up in the north east of Scotland. Ours may be a particularly tough specimen, so I'd be inclined to take note of where they are kept at your local garden centre. If their Bays are kept indoors during the winter, you should probably do the same.
When we moved south we visited the town of Romsey and one of the first trees I took notice of, in a garden near the Abbey, was a Bay in flower. It was huge, the height of the house! Where we live now these trees grow in the parks, and many are clipped to shape, which needs to be done twice during the growing season. Not only does this tidy up the topiary but it also encourages dense growth.
Every spring we find several seedlings in our garden, spread by birds that have feasted on the almost black berries. We can buy little plants for around £1.50 from our local Saturday market. These insignificant plants about 6 inches (15 cm) tall, are nothing like those £150 topiary specimens neatly trimmed into a diamond or pyramid, but in a couple of years each will be tall enough to grace the most splendid of doorways when planted in a tub.
Last year I sent eight seedlings from our garden to a relative who dreamed of having a pair of plaited 'standard' Bays in tubs either side of her front door. Six survived and she's planted three close together in each of two tubs and let them grow, stripping off the side shoots to encourage height and enabling her to intertwine the stems to realise her dreams.
Bay is best grown on fairly well drained but enriched soil, as found in its Mediterranean home.
~0 Variety 0~
There is a splendid example of Laurus nobilis 'Aurea', the Golden leaved Bay in the RHS garden at Hyde Hall in Essex. Growing on heavy Essex clay and perched on a hilltop where it is exposed to cold north and easterly winter winds this is an example of the possible, and unexpected, potential hardiness of the species.
~0~ Propagation ~0~
~ Seeds ~
The best are the self-set seeds that grow where they are most suited: those landing in the wrong place won't succeed. If you can get hold of some seeds, it's best to keep them in the fridge for a while (up to twelve weeks is recommended). In the spring, spread the seeds on the surface of barely moist, well-drained compost. Make sure you cover them very thinly with the same compost and do not allow them to stay damp, or they will rot. Germination time is generally three to four weeks although it can take several months.
~ Cuttings ~
Heeled cuttings of ripe wood, between 9 and 15 cm (4 - 6 inches) long, should be taken in late summer. Strip off the lower leaves, leaving only two or three at the tip, and insert them into a pot containing potting compost, place the pot away from direct sunlight. It's important that the cuttings are kept in a humid environment, so use a heated propagator if you have one. In the south it may be possible to use either a cold frame or cloches. It may take up to a year for the cuttings to take root.
~ Layering ~
Do this in the spring. Simply bend a lower branch so that it touches the ground. Nick the lower part with a sharp knife, push in onto the surface of the soil, and cover with a layer of soil or compost. Then, either peg it down with wire or weight it with a stone. It will take between six and twelve months to take root, so be patient. When you're sure the stem has successfully rooted just cut if off from the main plant and carefully transplant it where you want it to grow.
~0 Pests and Diseases 0~
The only insects in our garden that attack Bay are vine weevils and scale insects, although it can become infected with powdery mildew and leaf spot, the leaves may be targeted by tortrix moth caterpillars.
I have one unusual specimen that I believe may have been attacked by a fungus, giving the leaves pale white stripes. I'm keeping an eye on it and may try to take layered cuttings to see if this is a viable mutation.
~0~ Uses of Bay ~0~
If you don't grow a Bay it's easy to buy the dried leaves at most supermarkets, remember to take a look in the freezer sections because some suppliers now sell frozen herbs.
~0 Cooking 0~
Bay is the only plant of its genus to be used in cooking. The older leaves, which contain very volatile oil, are used either fresh or dried to add a strong flavour to casseroles, soups and stews. The leaf is discarded, not eaten. Added to pulses Bay gives flavour as well as reducing flatulence.
Bay is tied into a bundle with parsley and thyme to make a Bouquet Garni. Other herbs can be added to suit personal taste or as they become freshly available.
We have added a bunch of Bay twigs to a barbecue, when appropriate, it crackles and burns quickly because of the high oil content and gives just the right flavour to what we're cooking, whether meat or fish.
Push some bay leaves into a canister of plain flour; this will give added flavour to savoury pastries and pies.
~0 Household 0~
Bay can be hung in an open window as an insect repellent and also used to line bookcases, protecting precious volumes from silverfish attack. It is a more masculine-scented moth repellent than lavender.
Leaves, either fresh or dried can be added to canisters of flour to keep weevils 'at bay' also adding flavour to a savoury pastry, in the same way as vanilla pods can be used to flavour a jar of caster sugar.
Burning readily because of its high oil content, Bay can be used straight from the bush to help light a household fire or give scent to a room.
~0~ Myth, Magic, Herbal and Language ~0~
Ah, it's time we went back to poor Apollo, left looking at a Bay tree where he'd previously been pursuing the love of his life.
To demonstrate his lasting love for Daphne, Apollo made himself a crown of Bay leaves and declared that the tree was sacred. He gave it magical and protective powers that could be transferred to those wearing or using its leaves and branches. Apollo's son Aesculapius was the God of Medicine, and hence the Bay was confirmed by the Greeks as having curative powers. Able to ward off lightening, the thunderbolt of the Gods, Bay wood was often used in roofing, and sometimes a cut leafy branch was attached to the ridge or pinnacle of a roof, or carried for protection during electrical storms.
Eaten by the Pythian priestess to aid prophecy if you place five Bay leaves beneath your pillow you will dream of your future partner or be assured inspirational and meaningful dreams. Bay leaves are mildly narcotic, decoctions have been used to encourage menstruation and terminate pregnancy, so care should be taken during those precious nine months.
Bay leaves can be used as an infusion to aid digestion, to treat flatulence and calm hysteria; added to a bath the same infusion can ease cystitis and menstrual problems. As a hair rinse this will help fight dandruff. Externally it can be used to treat rheumatism, strains and sprains and for skin irritation. An infusion of crushed berries is reported by Culpepper to be effective against snake and insect bite.
Bay is a protector, plant a tree near your home to ward off evil spirits, ensure harmony and prevent sickness. Leafed branches were used to sprinkle holy water and to bless musical instruments, burned with sandalwood Bay will lift curses, purify and protect a home, keeping evil spirits 'at bay'. The oil, mixed into wax for candles and burned near Candlemass brings purity and light.
Apollo is said to have started the Pythian Games, forerunners of the Olympics when winners were awarded victors wreath of Bay Laurel. Worn by Roman emperors the same berried wreath, crown or garland was later awarded those achieving excellence in education, the bacca laurea (berry of Laurus nobilis) giving rise to the term 'baccalaureate' and the word 'bachelor', because these highly educated men were also expected to remain undistractedly unmarried. Poets Laureate were given the title because they were awarded 'Laurels' (from the Latin Laurus) acknowledging excellence; however 'resting on ones laurels' implies complacence and a reliance on past glory.
~0 and finally 0~
Laurus, from which the names Lawrence, Laura and variations are derived, ensures the bearer will be honoured, famous; his or her life will be blessed by Apollo.
~0~!!~0~!!~0~ Important Warning ~0~!!~0~!!~0~
The use of a common or local name for plants, instead of referring to the Latin name can sometimes lead to confusion. In this instance the name may be confused with that of Laurel, a popular hedging shrub. The species are significantly different although they have a similar common name.
Unlike Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis), the hedging shrub "Cherry Laurel" (Prunus laurocerasus), which has much larger, glossy, and mid to light green leaves growing on green stems; bearing candles (or spikes) of white flowers in spring and clusters of large black cherry-like stone fruits IS NOT EDIBLE.
The non-fragrant leaves of this plant give off toxic cyanide gas when crushed or heated. These leaves fuelled the killing jars of bygone insect collectors; if you carry freshly cut hedge clippings of "Cherry Laurel" in a closed car you may become drowsy ~ I can confirm this from personal and unpleasant experience.
~0~ References ~0~
Personal experience ~ invaluable!
RHS Encyclopaedia of Plants and Flowers. Dorling Kindersley
Encyclopaedia of Herbs and Herbalism. Malcolm Stuart. Caxton Press.
~ Plant information ~
http://www.gardenaction.co.uk look at September
RHS online, What's On.
http://www.rhs.org.uk/WhatsOn look at Hyde Hall
~ Herbal, Folklore and legends ~
Bay is an everygreen herb which grows like a shrub, it can be grown in open spaces or in tubs. The flowers of the bay are yellow and it will flower in may. The best way to get a bay plant is to buy one from a garden centre for around 99p depending on the size. Then when it's well established re-plant outside. It likes to be in a sunny but shaded place in the garden. They may die off in the winter but should throw new shoots during the following spring. Bay is a native to the east mediterranean but have been grown in europe for years. They are a very popular herb to grow in your herb garden as they have a good use in cookery. You can use the leaves dried or fresh. Bay leaves have a very strong aromatic scent and the best way to dry the leaves is in the dark, this way they don't lose their colour. They can be stored in an airtight jar after the are dried, but in summer it is always good to be able to pick the leaves from the plant to add the fresh herb to your recipe. Bay can be put into stews and casseroles to give them an added flavour, remember to take them out though before seving. One or two leaves should be enough to flavour your meal. You can add them to a bottle of olive oil along with a few chillies and a clove of garlic, to give the oil extra flavour. You can put them in the pot when you are braising meat and they are excellent for flavouring home made tomato sauce. Here is a little recipe with bay that you might like to try. 8oz of green lentils 2 bay leaves 1 medium onion 6tsp sunflower oil or olive oil 2-3tbs chopped coriander 2-3 tbs basil 2tsp chopped mint salt and pepper Cook the lentils in a pan with the bay leaves and onion untill tender. Drain and throw away the bay and onion. Heat a pan and add the oil then fry all the herbs except the basil, for 3-4 minutes. Stir in the lentils and heat through, add the salt , pepper and the b
asil. Serve on a bed of rice or with fish. Enjoy.
Bay plants can be grown as standard trees. These standards are those popularly seen on either side of smart doorways. The problem is that they are not particularly well adapted to his climate, and so sometimes don't fare so well in the winter. If you fancy a pair of standards, an alternative you could consider is a box bush trained into a standard. They look pretty much the same, except for having smaller leaves. But they will be hardier, and withstand winter better. Its most common culinary uses are with fish, custards and stews. Cook these items with bay, but remove the leaves before the dish is served. WARNING: Bay leaves look like laurel leaves, but be aware. LAUREL LEAVES ARE POISONOUS. If in doubt, don't use it.
The Bay is what was used to make the laurels in the Roman days and has therefore been used to reward heroes, poets and emperors. Nowadays it’s mostly used in French Mediterranean cooking. It is an essential ingredient in a bouquet garni and very good in marinades, stocks, soups and sauces. A bay leaf simmered with milk to make béchamel sauce gives a fantastic difference to its flavour. I use mine in Bolognaise sauce and it makes a big difference it gives it an edge. The trees grow wild in the Mediterranean and can grow up to 7.5metres high. The leaves are shiny and leathery and gives tiny yellow flowers in the spring I let my leaves dry for a few days when ripe as it gives them a stronger flavour and should be picked when olive green not when brown. The bush is easy to grow in a garden or in a tub and will give you a supply throughout the year. The bushes are difficult to grow from seeds but grow well from cuttings. They should be in sunny sheltered areas in well-drained soil. They need to be protected from the frost, which can be seen as it burns the leaves. The trees take a long time to grow and I have one, which is five years old but is only some meter high. Once established the trees can be expensive approx £5 for a two foot tree which will only be some two years old.