The California Bay Leaf Is One Of The World's Oldest Spices

By Grace Rivas

Bay trees are in the Evergreen family, and were initially found in the Mediterranean and Asia minor. If allowed to grow naturally, the tree can reach heights between 10 to 15 feet. Bay trees grow well in USDA Zones 8 through 10, and therefore those looking for California bay leaf will find that the spice is not difficult to locate. Leaves of this type are most commonly used to season food.

Bay trees thrive in shady areas. They should be watered frequently, but it is unwise to allow the water to pool around their roots. Rather, excess moisture should be drained from the pot. Immature bay trees need protection from storms and strong winds. This is because they are easily damaged. For this reason, it is best for the trees to be kept in pots until they are ready to be planted in the ground.

Bay leaves are dark green in color and their surfaces are covered with an oil-like substance. This is why they emit a strong scent. They feature an elliptical shape, and are about 3-4 inches long. Yellow flowers typically surround the leaves on the aforementioned trees during the spring season. After the flowers fall from the female trees, they produce black, shiny berries. However, the latter are not safe for human consumption. Therefore, during harvesting, it is essential to separate the leaves from the berries.

The leaves mentioned above are used to create one of the oldest spices in the world. Once they are picked, it takes several weeks for them to dry out enough to achieve the robust flavor for which the spice is famous. The whole leaves are often used to flavor various soups and stews, while ground leaves are best for seasoning meats and vegetables.

The spice features a strong, bitter, and pungent taste. The leaves can be eaten as they are if a person wishes to do so. However, due to the fact that their flavor is very potent, most people would rather use them as seasonings for various dishes, as mentioned above. Some people who use the spice for health purposes may add the leaves to boiling water and consume the spice as tea.

In the majority of instances, it is only necessary to add a small amount of the spice to food, due to the potency of its flavor. For instance, a single leaf is usually more than adequate with which to season stew. If the powdered form of the spice is being used to season meats or vegetables, a quarter of a teaspoon is generally all that is needed.

Such spices should be stored in shady areas in airtight containers. If placed in direct sunlight, they can lose their potency very quickly. However, if properly stored, they will typically retain their flavor for up to two years.

California bay leaf seasoning blends are available dried, ground, or fresh. However, it is essential to realize that ground leaves must be stored in airtight containers or they will quickly lose their unique aroma. If dried leaves are being used, one should select leaves that are still green. After turning brown, they usually become very bitter and are not tasty. This unique spice can be found online or in conventional stores, but in order to ensure one chooses the best product, he or she should comparison shop. Those who use this interesting and tasty spice as a seasoning will almost certainly enjoy the results.

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