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not eating the bay leaf- why?

I've always heard that you are to not eat the bay leaf in dishes. Why, does it make you sick or something?

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  1. No, but it's not digestible. It will pass through mostly unchanged. And it tastes pretty strong.

    2 Replies
    1. re: PDXpat

      not to mention it could easily get stuck in your throat. even after cooked for a while, its is still pretty tough.

      1. re: ESNY

        Just thinking about a bay leaf stuck in my throat made me gag!

    2. Not sure about the sick part, but bay leaves are very tough, and no amount of cooking softens them up, they're just unpleasant in the mouth. Their flavor is also very concentrated, and a whole leaf in your mouth doesn't actually taste so good. Old Bay Seasoning uses ground bay leaf, so it can't make you sick.

      1. Was once told that the pointy edges can wreak havoc on the lining of the digestive system, a bit like eating glass.

        2 Replies
        1. re: carswell

          I heard this too. The larger leaves can be quite needle-y in their spines. I don't know if this is enough to perforate the gut, but I wouldn't want to risk whatever pain that bay-leaf puncture might cause

          1. re: carswell

            I was taught it can perforate the stomach, apparently this can be quite serious.

          2. I thought they were poisonous

            1 Reply
            1. re: marlie202

              You'd hardly use them in cooking then...!

            2. It's like chewing on something woody. Very tough.

              1. I have accidentally pureed bay leaves into soups and sauces and not suffered ill effects so i don't think they are poisonous, but they didn't puree completely and i ended up with little woody bits in my sauce that ruined the smoothness of it.

                1. What would possess you to want to eat one in the first place? :)

                  They're unlikely to be poisonous - both oil and water soluble chems would leach out during typically long cooking and anyway, there is such a thing as ground bay leaf, though one wouldn't have much general use for it.

                  1. Michael Smith made a spice rub largely out of bay leaves and sage on a cooking show up here. He used a spice grinder to pulverize the dried bay leaves. Therefore, they can't be actually harmful. But, I doubt you'd want to eat a whole one from a pot of stew or something.

                    1. Bay leaves fresh off our tree are pretty tough and leathery--way beyond the capability of my teeth. Except for the tip nothing is at all sharp in contrast to dried bay leaves. Unless the leaf is cut into small pieces, it would be unpleasnt going down and even more unpleasant coming out.

                      1. lol, what kind of folklore would compel you to think bay leaves are actually poisonous? both freash and dried bay is a staple herb in many cuisines.

                        they're just unpleasant if caught in the mouth.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                          I believe they have an evil twin that actually is poisonous. Laurus nobilis (bay) is not toxic, but mountain laurel and cherry laurel, and probably others are. This article, which I have just skimmed, looks interesting:

                        2. I will never forget a first date many years ago with someone who was somewhat unexperienced with finer dining. I cautioned him not to eat the bay leaf in his dish (we were at a restaurant). He had never heard of a bay leaf (or most dining out etiquette) and ate it anyway. I will never know what his true reaction was. He said very little afterwards and we never went out again.

                          1. The toughness of the bay leaf makes it a choking hazard.

                            The acids of your stomach are quite powerful enough to render any sharp edges mushy in short order.

                            There are poisonous plants but we don't refer to them as herbs or spices.

                            1. It's just because it would be a horrible experience -- possibly sharp, and impossible to chew. It's the same reason you don't eat kaffir lime leaves. They're there to lend flavour, and are usually removed prior to eating.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                This is also my understanding and the reason I always removed the bay leaf. Every recipe I've ever read with a bay leaf has also instructed me to do so. Although I've been served soups/stews at restaurants where they, intentionally or not, didn't/forgot to remove it.

                              2. I too, have heard from others that it is poisonous but, having a mother who was an excellent cook and gave me the knowledge and skills that she posessed, know that it is false. Where though would this misconception come from? Perhaps there is another plant that is called bay, that is similar in apperance and poisonous?

                                1. Mountain laurel and some ornamental bay leaves can be toxic. In large quantities the oil of the regular bay leaf can be toxic. The active ingrediant responsible from my understanding is eugenol.

                                  Bay Leaves have lots of medicinal uses according to this site.

                                  Like anything with medicinal properties ... use too much and it could be a bad thing. Also, it depends on your own personal medical condition. It is said that bay leaves help to lower blood pressure, so if you have low blood pressure that might not be a good thing.

                                  Bay leaves are toxic to cats so maybe thats where some of the talk about them being poisonous came from. If your cat starts chewing on the bay tree and drops dead, it is easy to think that it might not be so great for people.

                                  This site has a lot of info about the mild toxity of bay leaves and other plants.

                                  This other site cautions at the top that eating the leave can cause internal tears, particularily a problem for hemopheliacs.

                                  1. I ate a bay leaf once and it did indeed make me sick; gave me the worst stomach cramps I ever had, the feeling passed within 24 hours but it wasn't pleasant. Don't know why it makes some people sick and others not.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: bamalou

                                      Just a little 'old wives tale', but my Mama is from New Orleans, so I grew up eating lots of food with bay leaves (filet gumbo, etc.). We never ate them, just licked them, but the flavor they provide to a dish is undeniable. If one of my siblings or I found a bay leaf in our dish, Mama would tell us it was good luck. So, if you find one in your dish, just make a nice wish and put the leaf aside! ;-)

                                    2. i dont understand all this debate about them being poisonous, if they were, they wouldnt be sold in supermarket shelves to be used in cooking and they wouldnt be called for in recipes, and if need be, the cdc or fda would have them labeled... so there! Not poisonous!!! Hard to digest whole, maybe...

                                      and then there is the whole high-fructose corn syrup debate, trans fats, etc...

                                      1. Yeah basically. I work at chipotle and we are always to male sure there are no bay leaves in the rice and beans becaise it can make people very sick. For example .accidentally ate one and got pretty nauseous and felt fatigued. So not all people this can happen to but for some YES. Its just best to give the food extra something. Othere than that best not eaten.