Bay leaf is a common spice that is used in many dishes all over to the world to add special pungent aroma. The leaves of Bay Laurel tree (Laurus nobilis) are dried and then used in cooking. Bay leaf is also known by different names such as sweet laurel, sweet bay, laurel leaf or bay laurel. The tree is a native of Asia Minor, but is abundantly cultivated in the Mediterranean regions as this tree grows well in warm conditions. Depending upon the region where it is grown, there are varieties of bay leaves such as Californian bay leaf, Greek bay leaf, Indian bay leaf and the Mediterranean bay leaf. Californian bay leaf has the strongest flavor and is commonly used in western cooking. The countries that cultivate bay leaf as major crop are Belgium, France, Central and North, Italy, Turkey, Israel, Italy and India. As of today, Turkey leads in the export of bay leaves.
Species: L. nobilis
The Bay laurel tree has a great significance in the ancient literature of both Rome and Greece and in many Greek and Roman mythological stories the tree is described as the major symbol of honor. During the Elizabethan era it was a common belief that sleeping with bay leaves pinned to the pillow on the night of Valentine’s Day would help the person meet his dream life-partner. In the first Olympic Games held in 776 B.C. crowns made from glossy bay leaves were used to honor the winners of the competition. The ancient Greek mythology mentions that when the Sun God Apollo forcefully followed a nymph by the name Daphne, Gods transformed her into laurel bay tree for protecting her. That is the reason why Greeks still call this tree ‘Daphne’. The bay leaves are also mentioned in Biblical times as having great power. Ancient Romans believed that bay tree brought laurels and glory and protected everyone from hail and thunderstorms. The great Nero and his soldiers used bay leaves to wipe the blood from their swords after victory and believed that these trees purified the surrounding air.
Bay leaf constitutes a treasure of essential oils such as 1,8 cineol, eugenol, a- and ß-pinene, acetyl eugenol, methyl eugenol, linalool, geraniol, phellandrene, geraniol and terpineol. All these essential oils are rich in antiseptic, digestive and antioxidant properties. The combination of these essential oils provide anti-cancer properties to this plant. The leaf gets its special aroma due to the presence of terpenes cinnamic acid in combination with methyl ester. The leaves are rich source of Vitamin C and A and also provide minerals such as iron, magnesium, potassium and calcium in small amount.
Bay leaf is used for various purposes: