The History and Uses of Bay Trees in English Cuisine


The bay tree, also known as the laurel tree, is a common landscape feature in California. It is a tree that can grow up to a height of 15 meters and has dark green glossy leaves. The leaves of the bay tree are commonly used in cooking and produce a strong aromatic flavor. The woodrats and insects avoid this tree because of its strong aroma.

Bay trees can be found in both cooler and warmer areas of California and are often used as a natural fence or hedge due to their dense growth. They are easy to grow and require minimal effort in terms of watering and pruning. However, they are susceptible to diseases such as canker, so it is important to learn about the proper care and maintenance of these trees.

In addition to their use in cooking, bay trees have several other uses. The leaves of the tree can be dried and used as a natural repellent for fleas. They also make a popular houseplant and can be grown both indoors and outdoors. The fruits of the bay tree, although not commonly consumed, have been described as having a length of about 1.5 cm and a gray color.

When planting a bay tree, it is important to choose a location where it will receive plenty of sunlight and has well-drained soil. Fertilizer should be used sparingly as bay trees normally do not require much additional nutrients. When it comes to watering, bay trees need to be watered regularly, especially during the hotter months. Overall, bay trees are a beautiful addition to any landscape and can add a touch of elegance to any garden or yard.

Bay laurel

The bay laurel, also known as Laurus nobilis, is a popular herb used in cooking. It is a small tree or shrub that can grow up to 30 feet in height. The leaves of the bay laurel are glossy and dark green in color, with a length of about 3 to 4 inches. These leaves are alternate, meaning they are spaced out and not clustered together on the branches.

Bay laurel trees are native to the Mediterranean region and are known for their aromatic leaves. The leaves are often used in cooking to add a unique flavor and aroma to dishes. They can be used fresh or dried, and are typically added to soups, stews, and sauces. Bay leaves are also a common ingredient in pickling and marinades.

In addition to their culinary uses, bay laurel trees have other features that make them popular in the landscape. They are known for their attractive foliage and can be used as a hedge or specimen tree. Bay laurels are relatively low-maintenance trees, but there are a few things to consider when caring for them.

Bay laurels prefer well-drained soil and should be watered regularly, especially during dry periods. However, it is important to avoid over-watering, as this can lead to root rot and other problems. Insects such as scales can also be a nuisance for bay laurels, so it is important to keep an eye out for any signs of infestation.

Pruning is generally not necessary for bay laurel trees, but if you want to shape or control their growth, you can do so in late winter or early spring. When pruning, it is best to remove any dead or damaged branches, as well as any branches that are crossing or rubbing against each other.

Bay laurel trees can also be grown in containers, which makes them a versatile plant for both indoor and outdoor use. If you choose to grow bay laurels in containers, make sure to use a well-draining potting mix and provide regular water and fertilizer.

Overall, bay laurel trees are a popular choice for their attractive foliage, culinary uses, and low maintenance. Whether you’re using the leaves for cooking or enjoying the tree as a landscape feature, the bay laurel is a versatile plant with many uses.

If you’re considering growing bay laurel trees, be sure to learn more about their care and growing conditions. With the right care and attention, your bay laurel tree will flourish and provide you with years of enjoyment.

Herb Description

The bay tree, also known as Laurus nobilis, is a popular herb that can be grown both inside and outside the house. This small tree is native to the Mediterranean region and has been used in cooking and for its medicinal properties for centuries.

Bay trees have glossy, dark green leaves with a length of about 3 to 4 inches. The leaves are alternate on the branch and have a unique aroma that is described as a combination of pine and lemon. The bay tree grows best in warm, Mediterranean climates, but it can also be grown in other regions with proper care.

When growing a bay tree, it is important to plant it in well-draining soil and provide regular watering, especially during hot and dry periods. Bay trees are generally low-maintenance plants, but they may be prone to some diseases and insects, such as fungal infections and woodrats. If you notice any signs of diseases or insects, it is important to take action to prevent further damage to the tree.

Bay trees can be harvested throughout the year as needed. The leaves can be used fresh or dried for cooking and for making herbal infusions. To harvest the leaves, simply cut them off the tree using sharp pruning shears. It is recommended to harvest the leaves in the morning when their essential oil content is at its highest.

If you have a bay tree growing outside, you may want to consider moving it indoors before the temperature gets too cold. Bay trees can be grown as houseplants, but they will require more care than when grown outside. They will need bright light, regular watering, and occasional fertilizer to thrive indoors.

In the landscape, bay trees can be used as a natural hedge or as a standalone specimen tree. They can be planted in groups to create a dense and aromatic barrier, or they can be trimmed into a desired shape. Bay trees are also known for their attractive fruit, which is small and black in color.

In California, the bay tree is commonly referred to as the California bay or the California laurel. This variety of bay tree is native to California and grows larger than the common bay tree. It has gray bark and leaves that are longer and narrower than the common bay tree. The California bay tree is a favorite among local gardeners for its natural beauty and pine-flavored aroma.

Overall, the bay tree is a versatile herb that can be enjoyed both in the kitchen and in the garden. Whether you’re using it for cooking or for its medicinal properties, the bay tree is sure to add flavor and fragrance to your dishes. So why not start growing your own bay tree today?

Uses for Bay Trees

Bay trees, also known as laurel trees, are a versatile and popular plant with many uses. Whether grown indoors or outdoors, these trees bring beauty and function to any landscape or setting. Here are some common uses for bay trees:


One of the main uses for bay trees is in cooking. The leaves of the bay tree are commonly used as a flavoring ingredient in soups, stews, and sauces. The dried leaves have a pine-flavored aroma that adds a unique and delicious taste to dishes. Bay leaves can be easily harvested and dried for later use.

Insect repellent:

Bay trees produce an oil that repels insects, making them a natural and effective insect repellent. By placing a few bay leaves in problem areas, such as kitchen cupboards or garden beds, you can deter insects like fleas and scales without the need for chemical pesticides.

Ornamental feature:

Bay trees are prized for their glossy, dark green leaves that add an elegant touch to any landscape. Their compact size makes them a great choice for containers, where they can be trimmed and shaped into various forms. Their gray bark provides a visually pleasing contrast to the green foliage, especially when planted in groups or as a hedge.

Medicinal uses:

Bay leaves have been used for centuries in traditional medicine for their various health benefits. They are believed to aid digestion, relieve respiratory problems, and improve overall health. However, it’s important to note that bay leaves should be used in moderation and under proper guidance from a healthcare professional.

Plant care:

Caring for bay trees is relatively easy. They prefer full sun to light shade and should be watered regularly, especially during warm and dry periods. Pruning is recommended to maintain the desired shape and size. Bay trees can be grown in containers or in the ground, but they may need to be repotted or planted in a larger space as they grow. Fertilizer can be applied as needed to keep the plants healthy and thriving.

Whether you’re looking to add a touch of greenery to your garden, enhance your culinary creations, or benefit from their natural insect repellent properties, bay trees are a valuable addition. With their versatile uses and easy care needs, bay trees are a popular choice for gardeners in California, Oregon, and other warm climates. Start growing your own bay trees today and enjoy the benefits they provide!

Drying Bay Leaves

Bay leaves are a common ingredient used in many recipes to add flavor and aroma. If you have a bay tree growing in your landscape or as a houseplant, you may want to start drying bay leaves so that you have a full supply on hand whenever needed. Dried bay leaves can be stored for months and used in a variety of dishes.

To learn how to dry bay leaves, start by harvesting the leaves from your bay tree. Choose the larger, glossy leaves as they have more flavor. You can also alternate between harvesting from different branches to avoid putting too much stress on one area of the tree.

After harvesting, give the leaves a quick rinse to remove any dirt or pests. Then, lay them out to dry in a single layer in a well-ventilated area. You can place them on a screen, hanging them or even using a food dehydrator.

It’s important to keep the leaves away from direct sunlight to preserve their green color. The drying process can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on how warm or cool the area is. You’ll know the leaves are fully dry when they crumble easily between your fingers.

Once the leaves are dry, store them in an airtight container, such as a glass jar or a ziplock bag. Keep them in a cool, dark place to maintain their flavor for as long as possible. Dried bay leaves can be used in soups, stews, marinades, and many other recipes.

Bay trees are also known as laurel trees, and the leaves are sometimes called bay laurels or bay herbs. They have a long history and have been used in cooking and medicinal remedies for centuries. Bay trees can grow as small plants or become large trees, depending on the variety and the conditions they are grown in.

Bay trees are relatively easy to care for. They require well-drained soil and regular watering, but be careful not to overwater as it can lead to root diseases. Bay trees can be planted in the ground or kept in containers, making them a popular choice for both landscape and indoor gardening.

The bay tree is also the host plant for the dusky-footed woodrats in certain regions. These woodrats feed on the leaves and wood of the tree, so if you notice any damage or woodrat activity, be sure to take appropriate measures to protect your bay tree.

In summary, drying bay leaves is a simple and rewarding process. By following the proper care and harvesting techniques, you can enjoy the aroma and taste of bay leaves in your cooking all year round. Thank you for reading!

✿ Read More About Herbs.

Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.