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The Great Bay Leaf Hoax

Is there a second cook out there who feels that the bay leaf lobby
must be very strong? I cannot detect a flavor imparted by the addition
of one of these to anything.

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  1. how old are your bay leaves? that might be the issue. i cook rice with a bay leaf, and it completely changes the flavor of the rice.

    1. I really can't either and I've used both fresh and dried, grocery store variety and Penzey's... I still have never really tasted them in whatever I've been cooking, but I continue to use them!

      1. I agree that maybe yours were very old. They, to me, have a very distinctive taste that I always pick up.

        1. I have a bay tree growing in my yard. Good fresh bay has an aroma like nothing else...slightly menthol, very subtle, and a necessary component of many things I cook on a regular basis (courtbouillion, red beans, gumbo, etc). Try getting some really fresh bay leaves, or at least some relatively fresh dried ones. On the other hand, it might just be a fragrance you can't detect...we don't all smell in the same ways!

          17 Replies
          1. re: Hungry Celeste

            I agree with Hungry Celeste that it might just be a flavor you can't detect. My husband and I found this out the hard way after spending $50+ per person to eat a truffle brunch at a local restaurant. Everyone else was ooing and ahhing over the truffles and we couldn't taste a darn thing.

            1. re: SarahEats

              Yes, there is a certain segment of the population that cannot taste or smell truffles. I'm extremely sensitive to the smell; it usually knocks me out.

              As for bay leaves, I can certainly taste them. I once even made a soup where the bay leave taste was too strong (I accidently dropped some leaves in and never took them out).

              1. re: Shazam

                Not to hijack this post, but I've heard people fall into three categories where truffles are concerned - (1) they can't taste or smell them, (2) the smell/taste is overpowering or (3) they taste/smell amazing.

                1. re: SarahEats

                  Well, unfortunately for my wallet, I fall in category #3.

                  1. re: Louise

                    Maybe I should be thankful then!

                    1. re: SarahEats

                      By way of illustration: there are many streets here in Pasadena that are lined with camphor trees. When these are in full fruit, billions of the little berry-like offspring send out a pungent aroma that practically knocks me out. As we're driving down the street, the waves of smell are almost visible to me, they're so strong...but Mrs. O can't smell anything at all! She can smell a catbox that needs cleaning from all the way upstairs, and if I've neglected to brush my teeth she can smell that from across the room, but the sharp resinous bite of camphor-tree berries doesn't register at all.

                      1. re: Will Owen

                        God, is THAT what the horrendous reek of Orange Grove Boulevard and Lake Street and... and... is?? When I go play tennis in South Pas I have to drive out of my way to avoid that God-awful stench...

                        ...and while bayleaves have a taste to me, it's not overpowering.

                      2. re: SarahEats

                        What about the forth category? People who say they smell/taste like gasoline?

                      3. re: Shazam

                        Same here. I'm very cautious with bay leaves because they can take over and obliterate everything else. Same with cloves, same with oregano.

                      4. re: SarahEats

                        I can taste even old bay leaves and have never used fresh ones. I can taste truffles too. But if my life depended on it I could not distinguish cod from pollock from turbot from hake, or any other fish with the same texture and oil level. Flounder from bluefish or halibut, for sure. But flounder from sole from dabs? No way.

                        1. re: SarahEats

                          Oh man, that's just so sad- to go through that and not be able to taste the truffles.

                        2. re: Hungry Celeste

                          Do a blind test, One dish with, one dish without. You will fail.

                          1. re: peanutaxis

                            You obviously have not had a good Bay Leaf of have a not so good Palate.

                          2. re: Hungry Celeste

                            Hngry Celeste: once my tree started growing, my neighbor made some "bay leaf tea" for me that was absolutely delicious!

                            1. re: westsidegal

                              I have bay laurels growing in my yard, I don't taste them much so I add a lot of them to dishes. Nobody's complained yet. I wonder if it's one of those urban chef myths, although I love the smell of a fresh leaf when I crush it.

                            2. re: Hungry Celeste

                              I'm fairly certain I'm also one of those who just can't detect its flavour. I've had bay leaf in dishes plenty of times but just couldn't ever really taste it. But then, my ability to sense smells and tastes fluctuates a fair bit from time to time, so I'm just weird anyway.

                            3. Gads...I'm so glad that somebody else thinks the Emperor wears no clothes! I mean, I put bay leaves in dishes whose recipes call for bay leaves, but I've never noticed the difference.

                              1. Make sure you're using Turkish Bay Laurel. The California variety (sorry Hungry Celeste) impart a medicinal menthol-y taste. In my opinion, they are inferior, but... to each his/her own! The California Bay are most often seen when you buy fresh bay leaves in pre-packed bags or fresh at the farmer's market. My suggestion is to use dried Turkish Bay or if you're feeling botanical, buy a Turkish bay laurel and plant it in a pot or outside. They usually do pretty well outside as long as you don't live in Minnesota. Ironically, Turkish bay trees grow fantastically in California...

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: HaagenDazs

                                  I have a Turkish bay laurel in a pot in my kitchen. WOnderful to have for making bouquet garni, but there are discriminating chefs who believe that bay should never be used fresh. In any event, California bay is far too harsh to cook with; but it is pretty.

                                  1. re: HaagenDazs

                                    No need to apologize to me...my tree is a bay laurel, not the CA kind.

                                    1. re: HaagenDazs

                                      OK gotta jump in here.

                                      There is ONE culinary bay:

                                      Laurus nobilis ("Turkish Bay" or "Grecian Laurel")a small 20-30'compact, cone-shaped shrubby tree. Prized by cooks as bay leaves, a kitchen herb. Easily available at U.S. garden centers from 3" pots to 15 gallons. Hardy only to about 20 F.

                                      There is also completely different genus:

                                      Umbellaria californica ("California Bay Laurel" "Oregon Myrtle")
                                      native to Northwestern U.S. Coast Range, a rangey, upright tree with drooping branches to 40-100 feet. Commercialy grown only by specialty native plant growers and not casually availble at garden centers, even in its native range. Hardy to about 10 F w/o damage. Some visitors to the West Coast from Big Sur north will harvest leaves to use in cooking, but they are not as sweet as Grecian Bay, stronger in the camphor notes, bitter, etc.

                                      Hungry Celeste most certainly has a "Grecian Laurel" in her yard as Calif Bay Laurels are not often chosen as landscape plants except by native plant fanciers.

                                      So all you cooks, there is no discussing "California Bay" as a seasoning because it ain't happening. Plants are usually available by special order and the leaves are NOT sold as seasoning, except by unscrupulous merchants perhaps. The leaves are much thinner, by the way; very unlike the stout leaves of L. nobilis, sold everywhere as "culinary bay leaves".

                                      *note: many west coast farmers markets will sell Calif Bay this time of year for decoration, as they make up into beautiful wreaths, but again the leaves are not (or certainly should NOT be) sold as culinary bay. If so, shame on them!

                                      err, sorry, end of lecture.....

                                      1. re: toodie jane

                                        Well, those decorations are often sold for culinary as well as decorative us.

                                        For a very well-known example, the William-Sonoma california bay wreath:


                                        1. re: Karl S

                                          The copy writers? botanists they ain't, and it shows some folks'll sell the unsuspecting public anything as long as it 'looks good' and 'sounds good'.

                                          "Laurus nobilis--ask for it by name!"

                                        2. re: toodie jane

                                          Well, someone sells the CA bay leaves, my husband bought a bag of them by mistake--too unpleasant for cooking, but I think I read on this board that they are a deterrent to those little moth thingies that occasionally come into our pantries if you spread them out on your shelves.

                                          1. re: toodie jane

                                            "There is ONE culinary bay:"

                                            Except for the other one: Cinnamomum tejpata


                                        3. The bay leaf flavor comes out better if you fry it with the onions etc. instead of just throwing it into a liquid-filled pot. I can taste it either way but better if its cooked in the with some fat

                                          Dont buy the hype for those big pretty california leaves. the uglier smaller turkish leaves taste better.

                                          1. I don't like CA bay leaves either, and unfortunately, the sort usually sold as live plants here in the US.

                                            It's not a strong taste that I notice distinctly - most of the time - but I certainly know something's missing if I forget to toss them into the pot.

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: MikeG

                                              "It's not a strong taste that I notice distinctly - most of the time - but I certainly know something's missing if I forget to toss them into the pot."

                                              That is key.... in sophisticated cooking not every ingredient will be discernible (that is a myth of the popular Italian - Meditarrenean movement).... some ingredients form a quiet base for a dish.... you don't really know they are there unless they are missing.... they are just a part of a dish seeming right, & balanced.

                                              In most recipes.... Bay Leaves fall in that camp.

                                            2. You're right, it's crazy when a recipe says "ONE bay leaf" - one bay leaf from most people's kitchens is tasteless - because we let the bottle sit around too long. we just don't use them up fast enough to get the full potency. I always use about 6 of them for a recipe calling for one. Then you do get a very nice woodsey aroma that definitely adds something very positive to whatever it is you're cooking. Also, don't add them at the beginning if you're going to be cooking for more than 45 minutes. Routinely, I add all my spices only at the last 45 minutes of a long - cooking item. Otherwise, the flavor becomes muddy and you lose the subtlety.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: niki rothman

                                                I'll second the idea of almost always adding more than the recipe calls for, depending on the age of the bay leaves. I just opened a new bag from Penzey's and they are very aromatic, but I don't think they last long, even with the jar lid on tight.

                                                1. re: niki rothman

                                                  I dont get these posts - my turkish bayleaves last a long time in the closet and in most dishes I would never consider more than 2 leaves - they are just too strong when used correctly. You dont want to actually TASTE the strong bayleaf flavor - its just a nice background savory scent and flavor in a finished dish. Maybe people skim away bay leaf/spice fragrance through overaggressive skimming of fat. Its a mystery.

                                                  My suggestion to those who dont get bayleaf - make a nice pilaf, with onions, bayleaf and rice sauteed in butter or olive oil to start (or go whole hog with the full panoply of whole garam masala spices) the bay leaf scent will be evident in your rice cooked this way.

                                                2. For me, bay leaves are more about aroma than taste. If you want to get rid of cooking smells, i.e. fish, simmer a couple of bay leaves in a pan of water.

                                                  1. Like many have said, freshness of the bay leaves will have a big part in if you can taste it. Most herbs (including bay leaves) have an optimal shelf life of around a year; some say it's only six months, but if you go that way you end up throwing out a bunch and then replacing them with the same year's harvest. Find yourself some good fresh bay leaves (Penzey's is perfect for this if you have one nearby) and give 'em a whiff.

                                                    Bay leaves, to me, are the culinary equivalent of the harp in an orchestra. You don't really notice it when it's there, but if it's missing from something that normally has it you can tell there's *something* missing even if you can't quite put your finger on it.

                                                    1. definitely fry it in fat first, rather than just tossing it in the pot with the liquids. dried herbs and spices always benefit from a quick sizzle. it also isn't supposed to have a distinct flavor -- it's part of the layering of flavors in a dish.

                                                      1. There definitely is a taste or scent contributed by bay leaves, I think of it as lemony but right now I can't decide if it is a flavour of aroma (as I'm not cooking). Just make the mistake of adding too many and you will recognise it.

                                                        1. I'm with JK Grence with regards to the harp in the orchestra, as it is usually a component. I also kinda liken it to fish sauce in asian recipes, you might not be able to put your finger on it, but you would notice if it were missing.

                                                          1. Very strange. I was taught at culinary school to use only a piece of a bay leaf to a large portion stock or whatever, and have found that a very good rule of thumb. I find the flavor to be very pronounced. Just checked and I have Penzey's Turkish in my cupboard.

                                                            1. Good grief, from this post, I guess I'm one of the people who can't taste or smell truffles; could never see what my wife liked about them. However, I like bay leaf in stews, some soups, and I find they add a distinctively sweet flavor to saurkraut.

                                                              1. I always used to wonder about bay leaves in the same way. Whenever a recipe called for a bay leaf, I obediently tossed one in, but I never understood what the point was. It might as well have been cardboard.

                                                                Then, the first time I ordered bay leaves from Penzey's, I opened the bag and took a sniff and suddenly I realized why people use bay leaves. It was like an epiphany.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: Pumpkinseed

                                                                  I had the same experience when I started to buy my bay leaves at the local Indian market. An epiphany is right! Now I tend to refresh my supply once a year, even if I haven't gone through them all.

                                                                  1. re: TongoRad

                                                                    Third. It wasn't Penzeys but the first time I bought some kind that weren't the jar
                                                                    of McCormicks that had been on my spice shelf since forever it was like night
                                                                    turned into a laurel-scented day. If you can't taste them it's probably them not you.
                                                                    Go find some new, different ones.

                                                                2. I can detect whether a bay leaf is in a stew-type dish by smelling it when I enter someone's home. It is subjective. Some people's pee doesn't stink after they eat asparagus!

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: rdesmond

                                                                    I read somewhere--can't remember where, don't know if it is true--that EVERYONE's pee smells after asparagus, we just differ in our ability to smell the resulting compound?

                                                                  2. now that i have new bay leaves from the spice house i'm going to try them in more dishes... i like the idea of cooking them in rice.

                                                                    on the topic of not everyone tasting everything equally, there's also a taste receptor for cilantro which is apparently genetic. i'm sure we all know someone who hates cilantro and think it tastes like soap; that's what causes it.

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: annimal

                                                                      I thought I was the only one who thought cilantro tasted like soap. I used to hate it but now I can enjoy it in certain limited contexts, and it doesn't taste like soap any more.

                                                                      1. re: annimal

                                                                        I hated it as a kid. Now I love it. Same with papaya.

                                                                        I know my taste buds have changed. Flavors are weaker now that I'm older.

                                                                      2. i almost always throw a bay leaf or two in when i'm making soups ans such, it adds a little something, not a distict taste, but without one the dish just seems unfinished.

                                                                        btw, i got given a jar of bay leaves that were crushed.. not finely, but fairly small.. where are you supposed to use those? they're definately not edible, they're still hard and woody, but they're small enough that you can't fish them out of the soup like a regular whole leaf...???

                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                        1. re: RiJaAr

                                                                          You might use those 'pieces' in bouquet garni..

                                                                          1. re: RiJaAr

                                                                            You can always use a metal tea ball that just about everybody has in the kitchen gadget drawer for steeping loose tea leaves - to put very small spices like pickling spices and the leafy bits you describe. Then just neatly fish it out at the end of cooking.

                                                                            1. re: RiJaAr

                                                                              I have a Greek recipe for fava bean puree that calls for a broken up bay leaf, and after being simmered with the beans, the bay leaf gets pulverized when the dish is pureed. The bay leaf *makes* the dish and the final product definitely does not end up with distinct bits of bayleaf in it.

                                                                              1. re: RiJaAr

                                                                                You'd want to be careful with these... According to one reference that I recently read while browsing a Sur La Table store, bay leaves are sharp enough that they can cut internal organs. In other words make sure that you can fish them out later, no problem when they're whole.

                                                                                1. re: cgfan

                                                                                  As long as you pulverize them in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder or as in the recipe above in a blender you will be fine. Being Greek I have been eating bay leaves this way my whole life and have never encountered the problem.

                                                                                  As to the whole question, yes bay leaves have taste and they definitely have an effect on the final product. I put bay leaves in all of my European soups/stews and some marinades i do. When the bay leaves are left out people can taste a difference though they usually cant quite put their finger on it. Bay leaves provide an background note to whatever they are in. Like someone else said, they are not meant to be tasted directly. In america people really enjoy bold flavours and being able to taste all of the ingredients but this is not the bay leaf's purpose. I find the bay leaf enlivens the whole dish.

                                                                                  Make sure you use Turkish bay leaves. i order mine in small quantities and use them fairly quickly from penzeys.

                                                                              2. I find that Bay leaves can turn taste bitter, I remove them after about an hour if cooking with it. If the taste is too pronounced, I am not a huge fan at all. There are so many other good fresh and dry herbs to use. I'd rather use Herbes de Provence or sage.

                                                                                To RiJaAr, you could tie them into a a bag with other herbs so they don't get lost in the dish and then fish the entire bag out when done.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: chef chicklet

                                                                                  I made a great navy bean soup yesterday without the bay leaf. I used the above mentioned dry herbs instead. It turned out terrific and the Bay leaf was not event missed.

                                                                                  For my tastes, I'm okay with it in marinara sauces, I think perhaps the red wine might change it a bit to where the bitterness is wiped out. Maybe it is the California bay leaf that is turning me off. I'll try to find another source.

                                                                                2. Completely agree with serious and ricepad that whatever the Emporer is wearing, it's no bay leaf. But it still seems like asking for some kind of cosmic trouble to make soup without throwing one in -- what's up with THAT?

                                                                                  1. I took a cooking class once that told us you needed to crumple each leaf a bit (just a little........not to the point of making it a bunch of crushed leaf pieces) to release the oils before adding it to any recipe.
                                                                                    Is this accurate? Could this make the difference?

                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: MSK

                                                                                      Depends how dry they are. If they're really, really dry you'll just crack them and have pains fishing out shards.

                                                                                      1. re: MSK

                                                                                        I use fresh-off-the-tree bay leaves, and I do crumple/bruise each leaf before adding to a dish. These leaves are pliable, though, so they don't break apart.

                                                                                      2. I have a Turkish/Greek/Mediterranean bay in a pot in the yard (in Berkeley, CA). When we got it, it was a stick. Now, 8 or 9 years along it's sort of Christmas tree shaped. I wanted a bay so I could have fresh bay leaves for a dish I read about somewhere 30+ years ago -- chunks of swordfish, tossed with salt, lemon and olive oil and threaded on skewers alternating with bay leaves all jammed together and touching. I use half a leaf between chunks which provides quite enough flavor and doesn't leave the tree bare. Grill over wood or charcoal. Don't eat the bay leaves -- taste them in the fish.

                                                                                        Yes, I know that swordfish is not on the mercury-free and sustainably fished lists. Fortunately, it's pricy enough to be a self-regulating indulgence.

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. re: Miss Otis

                                                                                          We use the (almost) same exact preparation for chicken livers, the difference being that we brine them. So long as the bay leaves are touching the livers on the skewer they impart a wonderful quality to the final dish.

                                                                                        2. Noticed that Penzeys has, I did not buy, powdered bay leaf.

                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: serious

                                                                                            Apparently the jury is still out on whether the california bay is edible or not. Some sites say it's toxic, others say it's commonly substituted, even by spice companies, although that is contrary to FDA rules, which defines bay leaf as the laurus nobilus or true bay leaf. Apparently the indians actually ate the nuts roasted, but you have to do it just right. The ability to taste the flavor depends some on the type and how old it is, but there is also a genetic difference in how well people can taste bitterness. I can taste it really well, enough to easily taste bay leaf, but also enough that I don't care for most beers and wines, or even many green vegetables, unfortunately.

                                                                                            1. re: fud

                                                                                              If the California bay weren't edible, I'd be dead by now. I'd rather forage than get store-bought.

                                                                                          2. I can detect the flavor, but I don't like it. So I don't use them.

                                                                                            Mike came home from the Mexican butcher's one day with a tongue. He had asked the guy what to do with it, and he gave him a bag of red spice mix and this ENORMOUS bag of bay leaves--several lifetimes' supply in my kitchen.

                                                                                            1. In soup it is very subtle and can be overpowered by other herbs. You can discover what bay tastes like by performing the following experiment: boil a small amount of rice with a fresh bay leaf or two and you will taste it. Don't eat the rice - because rice thus flavored is not intended as a recipe - but it will show you what bay leaf tastes like.
                                                                                              However, I need help! How do I know if the potted bay tree that I have been using for 10 years is Umbellaria californica or Laurus nobilis? I bought it from Peconic River Herb Farm on Long Island as a "bay laurel" and always assumed it that I was plucking the same ancient and noble laurel leaves that the oracle of Delphi consumed, but I recently saw a picture of the California tree and it looks a lot like mine. Does anyone out there know how to tell the difference?

                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                              1. re: ramehshu

                                                                                                Curiousity got my cat :-).
                                                                                                Link to Turkish bay laurel - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bay_laurel
                                                                                                Link to California laurel - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Californ...
                                                                                                The leaves of the Turkish bay are noticeably serrated and wrinkled at the edge.

                                                                                              2. So here's the thing - Bay leaves have historically been famous as a coveted Indian spice because they have an intense woody almost cinnamon-y flavor. That's why so many recipes include them. The problem is, the bay leaves you find at stores in this country are not actually bay leaves! They are bay laurel leaves, which are an entirely different species that just happen to look similar to Indian bay leaves. I guess their similar appearance is what first started the practice of substituting them for Indian bay leaves? But they're super different and taste totally different. Bay laurel has a slightly peppery sweeter taste to it. The Turkish variety is much more subtle than the California variety. They're still good, just nothing like true Indian bay leaves. (IMHO they don't even look that similar. Here's Indian bay leaves: http://www.google.com/search?q=indian... notice the veins in the leaves - they extend the entire length of the leaf. Compare this to the more commonly-found "Bay leaf" (really bay laurel) - presumably Turkish: http://www.savoryspiceshop.com/conten...

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. re: jayjay5531

                                                                                                  Indian Bay Leaves are a completely different thing than Mediterranean Bay from and are not suitable for the same applications.
                                                                                                  They were not a substitute for Indian Bay which is from a Cassia Tree while Mediterranean Bay is from the Laurel Tree. The Indian Bay Leaf is the imposter here.
                                                                                                  Their use developed separately from each other.
                                                                                                  They taste completely different than one another.
                                                                                                  Western Recipes never had Indian Bay leaves in mind they were always meant to be Mediterranean Bay.

                                                                                                2. A trick when I started cook years ago was when I was unfamiliar, impartial, or unaware of what a particular herb or spice did was to simmer a typical measurement by itself in about 2 cups of water for an hour. First taste it alone, and then try it with a little salt. Bay leaves have a very mild aroma and taste, almost like that of green tea or clove. You'll never be able to pick it out in robust soups and dishes but it is doing a lot. Think of it as a foundation for the other spices. It's absence in most dishes will not make it taste the same. I make a mean jambalaya that is extremely addicting, but you can't quite put your finger on why. Made it once when I was out of bay leaves and it wasn't the same.

                                                                                                  1. Learned all my most basic kitchen skills and recipes from my Grandmother. She always said you ABSOLUTELY HAD to put a bay leaf in things like soups or stew. Had NO idea they even had a taste until I bought my own after getting married!?! Hers may have been around since the 20s??

                                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: kseiverd

                                                                                                      People of a certain generation(s) threw nothing away- even 10-year old spices.
                                                                                                      My mother was the same way. She had a rather small collection and each one was older and duller than the next.
                                                                                                      I also never appreciated bay leaves until I bought a pack from Penzey's.

                                                                                                      1. re: monavano

                                                                                                        I'll have to try Penzey's. Somehow, I never thought of buying bay leaves from them. I had become so conditioned to McCormick's and others' being flavorless that I never thought of them, although I have bought many other spices from Penzey's. Thanks for the observation, monavano.

                                                                                                        1. re: gfr1111

                                                                                                          Last time I bought Bay leaves, I got them from the Mexican spice section where everything comes in clear plastic cellophane. I tore the bag opening it and tossed the leaves into a canning jar. The next time I needed a bay leaf, I opened the jar and the smell nearly knocked me over.

                                                                                                          Golf the record, I think my spaghetti sauce is terrible if I don't add bay leaves.

                                                                                                          My parents were convinced that they were dangerous and would search through any dish cooked with them and discard the leaves.

                                                                                                    2. Hallelujah! I thought that I was alone in feeling this way. Maybe fresh bay leaves have some flavor? Dried ones certainly don't.

                                                                                                      10 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: gfr1111

                                                                                                        Good Quality Bay Leaves (even Dried Ones)assuredly have flavor.

                                                                                                        1. re: chefj

                                                                                                          Dried bay leaves lose flavor relatively quickly (say within a year) but have flavor. Fresh are better and very definitely have fuller and more intense flavor.

                                                                                                          I have a bay tree which I keep on the patio in the summer and in the sun room in the winter. Bay has good flavor even in the winter.

                                                                                                          1. re: Eldon Kreider

                                                                                                            Di you mean to address this comment to me? I never said that Bay Leaf was flavorless.
                                                                                                            Fresh Bay Leaves are most pungent in the Summer and if you are going to dry them that's when they should be picked

                                                                                                            1. re: chefj

                                                                                                              I intended to amplify and support your comment.

                                                                                                                1. re: chefj

                                                                                                                  Id say dried bay leaves hold up for well over a year. I buy them (the turkish type) in indian or middle eastern stores - do prefer fresh from my bay tree (which moves outside for the summer) but the dry are fully acceptable - release there flavor best where sauteed in fat or when there is some fat in the dish.

                                                                                                        2. re: gfr1111

                                                                                                          I buy the cheap Wall Mart brand and those dried up broken bay leaves have plenty of flavor.
                                                                                                          I hate the flavor of bay leaves and have to use a very small portion because of it.
                                                                                                          Usually one or two small leaves is way too much for my taste.

                                                                                                          1. re: thegrindre

                                                                                                            If you hate it, why use any at all?

                                                                                                            1. re: chefj

                                                                                                              It's like any 'spice'. They all help the outcome if used sparingly.
                                                                                                              I also hate garlic but if used very very lightly it helps the overall taste.
                                                                                                              I only use them to enhance the dish's flavors, not taste the spices.

                                                                                                        3. I can taste them in some dishes but not in others. I use fresh leaves from a tree in my back yard. In the bechamel that goes into a potato dish, I miss it immediately if it is not there. In a hardy stew, I doubt that I could tell one way or the other. Perhaps the milder flavors combined with ample oil/fats carry the flavor better.

                                                                                                          1. make the mistake of leaving a bay leaf in your tomato sauce and freezing it - you will taste the bay!

                                                                                                            1. Perhaps this may help answer your question, according to Kadioglu Baharat Spice Company:

                                                                                                              "There are Turkish Bay Leaves and Californian bay leaves. They come from two different varietals of trees.

                                                                                                              The two types of bay leaves are very different. Chefs prefer Turkish Bay Leaves. Turkish Bay leaves “add the right aroma and flavor to the dish. Usually if there is some sweetness in the dish, if it has carrots or raisins or even paprika,” the slightly bitter bay leaves add contrast. California bay leaves, on the other hand are more aromatic, not as flavorful, and more floral. California bay leaves are sometimes referred to as “oily”. California bay leaves are generally avoided when cooking.

                                                                                                              The Turkish Bay Leaves have softer, more subtle flavor and are more commonly used in most cooking. The California variety has a bright green color and a beautiful long leaf, with a strong, slightly astringent flavor.

                                                                                                              Dried Turkish Bay Leaves can last for a long time. Test your Turkish Bay Leaves by bending it slightly – it should have a bit of flexibility, and when broken, it should still have an aroma."

                                                                                                              Reference: http://kadioglubaharat.com/en/baharat...

                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: SpiceCompany

                                                                                                                I was under the impression that the only variety of bay that is used in cooking is bay laurel. Botanically, what is the difference between California and Turkish bay? Are they both varieties of bay laurel?

                                                                                                                1. re: SpiceCompany

                                                                                                                  Who's Question is this answering? Not the OP's

                                                                                                                2. I once lived where we had a bay leaf tree (aka laurel) in the back yard---when these leaves are fresh they give a strong and distinctive flavor.