Bay Laurel

Bay Laurel ( Laurus nobilis), are used a lot in cooking because of their characteristic flavour and mostly used in soups, stews, marinades and sauces. In Greece it is often found as a self-sown plant. Also in Greek land people grow the “Apollo’s Bay Leaves” known with many other names, depending on th part of Greece it is grown. It is not known how much of this plant is being consumed around the world in an annual basis, though it is well known that Greece exports about 200 tons of Bay Leaves each year!

Bay Laurel can be found as a bush or as a short tree. The Bay Leaves’ smell is aromatic and they are slightly bitter-flavoured and the flowers grow during spring, especially in March and April. The fruit is blue-black, or black when it is matured and reaches the size of a small olive and is used to produce Laurel Oil, which is a green ointment.

Usage
Especially in countries like Greece, Bay Leaves are used a lot in cooking because of their characteristic flavour and mostly used in soups, stews, marinades and sauces. Are being used as well in dried fruit packages as figs and raisins.

Risotto cooked with bay laurel leaves

Risotto cooked with bay laurel leaves

Modern Usage and Properties
Bay Laurel extract is very helpful for the good function of human’s stomach. Laurel Oil which is extracted by pressing the fruits, is considered antirheumatic, ideal for muscle contusions and against arthritis. Also used to empower the hair and darken it’s colour boiling it along with bay leaves and walnut leaves. Nowadays is used in perfumes, candles and soaps. The essential oil produced by the distillation of leaves, is antiseptic, valuable for colds and bronchitis. In many Greek villages, the ladies still make a batter of bay leaves and mashed chickpeas to knead a few types of bread. The Bedouins flavor their coffee with bay leaves.

Latin Poet Ovid, wearing Bay Laurel crown

Latin Poet Ovid, wearing Bay Laurel crown

The History of Bay Laurel
In Greece, Bay Laurel is well known since the ancient years and even Homer talks about it in his works. It was a holy tree dedicated to god Apollo. First of all, the Greeks and then the Romans used to award their champions with laurel wreaths. Thus, even today the laurel is identified with glory, victory and supremacy. In ancient times was also known its therapeutic properties. Laurel was known since antiquity for its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and soothing properties of the leaves and the fruit. Hippocrates granted it as an analgesic after childbirth, in various gynecological problems and for washing the head. Using laurel he cured infertility.

Dioscurides constituted the beverage for curing the diseases of the bladder and the mold, the melted fruits of asthma and TB and the juice in cases of hearing problems and fatigue. In ancient Greece and Rome was also a plant and dedicated to the god Asclepius (god of medicine). From old branches they used to make wreaths to glorify heroes and later believed that protecting the world from the devil. When a Laurel tree dried out, they believed that something evil would happen! It was also used to stimulate hair and to darken their color (and eyelashes) boiling with bay leaves and walnut. The Byzantines flavored their wine and used it as a depressant. The dust of bay leaves is used topically to stop nose bleeding