Around 12 years ago, I moved a small bay laurel tree from the large terracotta pot that the previous owner had put it in and planted it along the fence in the herb garden. The bay was obviously thrilled. Within a few short years he grew from a stunted 3 feet tall bush to a very stately 8 to 9 foot tall tree. I’m constantly trimming at him so he doesn’t take over the entire area.
All of those trimmings keep me supplied in plenty of bay leaf. I was familiar with tossing a bay leaf into meat dishes for seasoning, but I had no idea just how versatile this simple leaf really was. Am I the only one living in bay leaf oblivion? Just in case I’m not alone, here are 5 uses that you may not know about:
- Bay Leaf Tea: I had no idea. And I love tea. I had heard mothers talk about Gripe water to help colicky babies, but I had no idea that it was just bay leaf tea. Or that it was good for adults with gut issues too. Have I been living under a rock?! Just place 4 bay leaves and 4 cups of cold water into a sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Boil for 3 minutes and then remove from heat. Drink a cup of this infusion to soothe an upset stomach. For babies, feed one or two ounces whenever baby has gas.
- As an aromatic tension tamer and fatigue buster: Take one dried bay leaf and place it in a heat proof dish in an open area of your room (be sure to keep it away from anything flammable and out of reach of children and pets). Light the leaf and leave the room for about 10 minutes. When you come back the leaf should be burned out and your room filled with a wonderful mood enhancing incense smoke.
- To flavor a pound cake: Pound cake is amazing in its own right, but add a few bay leaves to the bottom of your prepared cake pan before you pour your batter in and your cake will reach new flavor heights. As your cake bakes, the flavor of the leaf infuses into the cake. When you take your cake out of the pan, just peel the leaves off the bottom and discard. Perfect treat with a great cup of tea.
- As an infusion to be added to drinks and desserts: To make a strong bay leaf infusion, place about 25 leaves into a pot with 2 cups of water and simmer on low heat until reduced to about half. Add 4-5 tablespoons of this infusion to a mixture of milk and eggs for a delicious warm drink. Warm 3 cups of milk in a sauce pan on medium heat while stirring with a whisk. Slowly add 2 beaten eggs using the whisk to blend. Add 4-5 tablespoons of bay leaf infusion and 2 tablespoons of maple syrup to sweeten. Pour into mugs and top with a bit of cinnamon if desired for a unique ‘nog’. For a new twist on old custard, use about 7 tablespoons of the infusion to your favorite recipe.
- To Repel bugs in your kitchen: Place sprigs of fresh bay leaves in the back of your kitchen cupboards to repel moths and other 6 legged creatures. Place a bay leaf in your flour bin to discourage weevils.
So many uses for a simple little leaf. Do you have a favorite use for bay leaves? I would love to hear it!