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Sourcing Really good quality Bay Leaves

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Where are you all finding the best Bay leaves in Toronto? Not the decade old dried ones in the McCormick bottles but really good quality, fragrant ones. Any ideas?

(downtown preferred but will travel for the best)

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  1. I've been happy with the spices I buy from the dried goods people in Kensington Market. My personal favourite store is the one on the north side of Baldwin, closest to Tom's suits store (between Tom's & Augusta).

    1. you can find fresh ones at the better grocery stores (e.g. whole foods, loblaws, etc). they're in the produce section with other fresh herbs and sold packaged in plastic clamshell packs. when fresh they're usually labelled as laurel leaves. i leave them in the packaging in my fridge where they stay fresh for at least a few weeks. they will eventually dry out but don't seem to rot or turn slimy like other herbs. even when dried this way, they're still more flavourful than the pre-dried stuff.

      it never occurred to me before, but i wonder if freezing them while they're still fresh is better than letting them dry out?

      1 Reply
      1. re: num nums

        cool, thanks for the tip on Laurel leaves.

        freezing works for curry leaves and kaffir, so it seems it *should* work for bay too, eh? worth a try anyway because if it works, that's be the bomb!

      2. I don't know if you are east end or not, but Pape IGA has fresh ones regularly. I freeze them all the time with good results though they stay fresh in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

        1. Boncheff Greenhouses always has first-rate fresh herbs, along with edible flowers, at low prices--I think they're suppliers to many retailers. I picked up a pack of fresh bay leaves for about a $1.They're on Olivewood Drive just east of Kipling.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Kagemusha

            Boncheff is an amazing place. Unfortunately, inaccessible to me most of the time. Packaged tarragon and dill from there stayed fresh for three weeks in the fridge. Wonderful and, for many things, really cheap.

          2. You can buy a potted laurel bush at one of the sesasonal farmer's markets. I've seen them in the past at the one in Mel Lastman Square - reasonably priced, too. The idea is to plant them in your garden and then pot them at the end of the season and bring them indoors for winter. Has anyone tried this?

            12 Replies
            1. re: DockPotato

              I have had a potted bay laurel for about five years. It is about 5 feet tall and very bushy. It started out about 6 inches tall.

              It is in a big pot that goes outside every summer and comes inside before the first frost.

              As it is in a pot it needs water if it is dry in the summer, and of course in the winter.

              It gets two Miracle Grow treatments a year.

              It doesn't bleed when you cut off a leaf, but it does let out a little yelp.

              1. re: Scary Bill

                Where did you get your bay laurel? I want to buy one. I'm not sure if my wife will be happy about it, she wants me to get rid of all my other large houseplants, including the hibiscus I've had for 26 years.

                1. re: foodyDudey

                  Richter's Herbs in Goodwood ON sells the plants and seeds. I've got two mini trees. One which I started from seed (not particularly easy, about 25% germination of seed) and another as a little plant (about 4-5 inches). They are both now about 3 feet, easy to keep trim and now about 12 and 15 years old.

                  1. re: Sue

                    I see others have done the same thing and mentioned Richters. Didn't finish reading the rest of the comments!

                2. re: Scary Bill

                  ScaryBill, how do you think the baylaurel would hold up inside an apt (the temps get as high as 80 in the winter and as low as 65 in the summer)?

                  I'm loath to ever let it go outside (on the balcony) as it seems all the herbs I've tried to grow out there end up tasting like exhaust fumes (the downside of living downtown on a major road)

                  1. re: orangewasabi

                    Fine. Ours gets a greater range just being outside. Just make sure it gets a lot of sun. They can't get too much. Do Put it outside from time to time, since ours really responds to being put out in the spring and grows like crazy.

                    1. re: Scary Bill

                      okay cool, I just might try this. Sun I can provide. worst case scenario, I can donate it to my best friend in the suburbs and just visit her more often

                  2. re: Scary Bill

                    I think I could manage that... maybe.

                    We use bay leaf a lot, but never had it fresh. How does the taste of raw leaf compare to dried?

                    Do you leave the plant in its pot, or do you transplant it with seasons?

                    1. re: DockPotato

                      We put it in a big pot, about 32 cm, to give it room to grow, though if I dug it out now I'm fairly certain I'd find it rootbound. Have never transplanted, but it might be time for a larger pot.

                      Fresh Bay Laurel is much milder than dried. Dried bay is clearly the lead actor in any dish it is used in whereas fresh is better in a supporting role.

                      If you dry leaves for a few weeks the flavour imparted becomes more intense.

                    2. re: Scary Bill

                      I bought mine downstairs at the St. Lawrence Market. Unfortunately it died, I think overwatering was the culprit.

                      1. re: Mila

                        I have a small one which is just barely hanging in there, since I don't really have a sunny window in my townhouse.

                        However, if you really want to try growing fresh herbs, I strongly recommend you talk to the people at Richter's Herbs.

                        They're located in Goodwood; if you have a car and time to go, it makes a nice trip (especially in the springtime, when their greenhouses are full of so many varieties of popular as well as esoteric herbs.) They also carry non-chemical pest control products, and they pledge that they don't knowlingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or plants. If you can't make it there in person, you can also order by phone or on the web (though they won't ship live plants when there's a likelihood that they would be frozen.)

                        They're found on the web at:
                        http://www.richters.com/

                        Note: Before anyone asks - no, I am not an employee, owner or affiliate. I've just been going there every spring for the past 6 years or so, and I've always been happy with both the plants and customer service.

                      2. re: Scary Bill

                        "Yelp?"

                        I thought it would it would bay.

                    3. Got it at then Weall and Cullen, now Sheridan Nurseries.

                      It's a nice plant, my wife's favorite actually.

                      You have a tough decision to make, wife or plants. Maybe not that tough. Plants don't get angry when you come home late after a night at the pub.

                      1. I just got some fresh bay leaves at the green grocer downstairs in the South SLM (the one in the middle, behind the bakery, that carries all the fresh herbs -- my most consistent source for thai basil too).