The California Bay Leaf Is Unique

By Grace Rivas

Initially harvested in Asia and certain parts of the Mediterranean, Bay trees belong to the Evergreen tree family. When they grow wild, they typically measure between ten and fifteen feet tall. USDA Zones 8 to 10 are the areas in which these trees grow best. For this reason, individuals searching for California bay leaf will discover that the spice is easy to locate. Its most common use is to season various dishes.

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.

The leaves of Bay trees are dark green and are covered with an oily substance. For this reason, there scent is strong. Their shape is somewhat elliptical and they are approximately three to four inches long. In the spring, the trees on which these leaves are found are covered with small flowers that are usually yellow in color. The female trees produce shiny black berries after their flowers fall, but these berries are not edible. Therefore, it is important to keep them separated from the leaves during harvesting procedures.

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 has a bitter, pungent, and strong taste. If one so desires, he or she can eat the leaves by themselves. However, due to their powerful flavor, most people find that it is more advantageous to use them as seasonings. Certain people who consume the spice for health reasons brew the leaves into a tea.

In most cases, only a little of the spice is necessary, as the flavor is so intense. For example, if one is seasoning stew, a single leaf is typically more than enough to achieve the desired results. When the crushed spice is used to season vegetables or meat, a quarter of a teaspoon is usually sufficient.

Such leaves should be stored in shady areas in containers that can be tightly sealed. This is because direct sunlight can cause them to lose their potent flavor. If stored properly, however, they will retain their flavor for two years in most cases.

California bay leaf seasoning can be purchased fresh, ground, or dried. However, it is important to understand that ground leaves will quickly lose their unique flavor if the container is left open. If one is using dried leaves, the latter should be used when they are still green. When they turn brown, they become extremely bitter and unpalatable. This tasty spice can be purchased online or in traditional stores, but it is always wise comparison shop in order to ensure that the best quality product is selected. Anyone who tries this unusual spice will likely enjoy the results.

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