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The leaf of the bay laurel, a native shrub of the lands surrounding the northern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean, has a mythic history. Ancient mythology recounts that Apollo pursued the uninterested nymph Daphne. Apollo stalked Daphne until the gods granted her protection by turning her into a bay tree. In the Greek language, the herb is still called "dafni."
Romans considered the bay tree the best protection from thunderstorms. As recently as the beginnings of the American era, superstition held that when bay trees died, disaster followed.
The greatest commercial production of bay leaf today is in Turkey. Bay laurels do not withstand heavy frost but require hot, dry summers for production of concentrated essential oils. In the US, the plant is best suited to interior southern California, although smaller specimens can survive as far north as Oregon. The bay leaf from California is oilier and more pungent than Turkish bay leaf.
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Bay Leaf in Cooking
Bay leaf makes excellent seasoning for poultry, fish and meat. Bay leaf comes together with parsley and thyme resulting in the subtle yet flavorful blend known as Bouquet Garni, and enhances the taste of any stew, soup or sauce it is introduced into. It is an important ingredient in many French, Moroccan and Turkish dishes.
Health Benefits of Bay Leaf
The essential oil of the bay leaf is a constituent of perfumes, and can be used as a massage oil.
The magical properties attributed to bay leaves are:
1) In Biblical times and in the Middle Ages people associated bay leaves with goodness and saw it as a protection against evil and lightning.
2) Used in modern times for: protection, psychic power, divination, success, money and wish magic.
With so many beneficial properties, it is no wonder it is best known as a seasoning for soups, sauces and stews, and is an appropriate seasoning for fish, meat and poultry as well. Bay Leaf is often used as a garnish and a pickling spice.
Bonus Ideas For Bay Leaf:
Bay leaves are never eaten themselves and are really just used to add extra flavor to a number of dishes. Bay leaves can be used in the following ways:
* Prepare a bouquet garni and add to soups, stews, casseroles and sauces.
* Use in pickling solutions.
* Add to boiling water for shrimp, crab and other seafood.
* Use in marinades for meat and fish.
* Add to milk when preparing homemade rice puddings or other milk puddings.
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