Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Underused Herb: Bay Leaf

One of the first things I started growing myself was herbs.  An herb box is a great way to get into some low-impact gardening and it can be done just about anywhere...even in the city if you have a balcony or a sunny window.

For awhile, I've been wanting a bay leaf plant.  Bay leaves actually come from a that'll grow to quite  a large size.  The tree is a member of the laurel family and, as I understand it, many laurels are poisonous, so it's important to make sure you have the right tree.  Unfortunately, you just don't see bay trees in the average garden center.

I'm happy to say that I was perusing the farmer's market last week and lo and behold, one of the booths had bay trees for sale.  At $9.99 per tree, it's a pretty expensive mistake if I manage to screw-up growing it, but I'm willing to take that chance.

I think bay is an underused and misunderstood herb.  I myself brushed-aside its importance whenever it was called for in a recipe but it really does give a nice background flavor to soups, stews, and sauces that you just can't get anywhere else.  Fresh bay is hard to find but dried bay leaves are not and they keep well.

Next time you're making a batch of soup or broth or even pasta sauce, throw in a couple of bay leaves.  I guarantee it'll change the flavor of the whole dish for the better.  Just be sure to fish them out before serving...they're pretty tough and nasty to try to eat.

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