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The Herb Bay Leaf: A Culinary Staple

The Herb Bay Leaf: A Culinary Staple

Posted by Renae Colbert on 23rd May 2024

Hello, fellow herb enthusiasts! I'm excited to share with you one of my favourite herbs – bay leaves. As the owner of The Herbal Connection, I have the pleasure of working with a wide range of herbs, spices, and teas, but there's something uniquely special about bay leaves. Not only are they a staple in my kitchen, but I also grow a bay tree by my pool, which provides me with fresh leaves for my winter meals. Today, I'll take you on a journey through the history, uses, and benefits of bay leaves, and share a few recipes that you can try at home.

A Brief History of Bay Leaves

Bay leaves, also known as Laurus nobilis, originate from the Mediterranean region and have been cherished for their aromatic properties for centuries. In ancient Greece and Rome, bay leaves were a symbol of victory and honour, often used to crown victorious athletes and leaders. Today, they are a beloved herb in kitchens around the world, adding depth and complexity to a variety of dishes.

What Are Bay Leaves?

Bay leaves are the aromatic leaves of the bay laurel tree. They are used primarily as a flavouring agent in cooking. Despite being referred to as a herb, bay leaves can be considered both a herb and a spice due to their dried and whole form. They impart a subtle yet distinct flavour that can transform a simple dish into a culinary masterpiece.

The Benefits of Bay Leaves

Bay leaves are not just a culinary delight; they also offer several health benefits. Here are three key benefits:

  1. Digestive Health: Bay leaves contain compounds that aid in digestion and can help alleviate symptoms of indigestion and bloating.
  2. Anti-Inflammatory Properties: The essential oils in bay leaves have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation in the body.
  3. Respiratory Health: Bay leaves are traditionally used to support respiratory health and can help relieve symptoms of colds and congestion.

Growing Bay Leaves at Home

One of the joys of owning a bay tree is having access to fresh bay leaves year-round. I grow my bay tree in a pot by my pool, which keeps it manageable in size and adds a touch of greenery to my garden. Growing bay leaves at home is relatively easy. Here are a few tips:

  • Choose the Right Pot: Ensure your pot has good drainage and is large enough to accommodate the tree's roots.
  • Sunlight and Watering: Bay trees thrive in full sunlight but can also tolerate partial shade. Water regularly, but make sure the soil is well-drained.
  • Pruning: Prune your bay tree to maintain its shape and size. Regular pruning also encourages new growth.

Cooking with Bay Leaves

Bay leaves are incredibly versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes. Here are two of my favourite recipes that highlight the rich flavour of bay leaves:

Recipe 1: Classic Beef Stew with Bay Leaves


  • 2 lbs beef stew meat, cubed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 4 carrots, sliced
  • 4 potatoes, cubed
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the beef and brown on all sides.
  2. Remove the beef from the pot and set aside. Add the onion and garlic to the pot and sauté until soft.
  3. Return the beef to the pot and add the beef broth, red wine, carrots, potatoes, and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 2 hours, or until the beef is tender.
  5. Remove the bay leaves before serving. Enjoy your hearty, flavourful stew!

Don't eat meat, no need to worry this is wonderful with vegetables I add in beans and lentils and up the seasonal vegetables perfect for cooler months and oh so satifying.

Looking for a seasoning to easily incorporate bay into your cooking be sure to check out our Old Bay Seasoning on the website.

Medicinal Use of Bay Leaves

Bay leaves have been used traditionally for their medicinal properties. Here is a simple recipe for a bay leaf tea that can help support respiratory health:

Recipe: Bay Leaf Tea


  • 3-4 fresh or dried bay leaves
  • 2 cups water
  • Honey or lemon (optional)


  1. Bring the water to a boil in a small pot.
  2. Add the bay leaves and reduce the heat to a simmer.
  3. Let the bay leaves simmer for about 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and strain the tea into a cup.
  5. Add honey or lemon to taste, if desired. Sip and enjoy the soothing effects of this herbal tea.

Bay leaves are a versatile and valuable herb that can elevate your cooking and offer potential health benefits. Whether you are using them to add flavour to your dishes or brewing them into a soothing tea, bay leaves are a wonderful addition to any kitchen. Growing your own bay tree can provide you with fresh leaves and a sense of accomplishment as you harvest your homegrown herbs. Remember, while bay leaves are generally safe for culinary use, always consult with healthcare professionals for personalised guidance on health concerns.

I hope you enjoyed learning about bay leaves as much as I enjoy sharing my passion for herbs with you. Stay tuned for more herbal insights and delicious recipes!

Happy cooking and stay healthy!

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