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Apr 3, 2010 04:36 PM

Where to find/buy fresh bay leaves in San Francisco?

I have searched a few farmers markets, as well as some stores near my house, and no luck. Anyone know where to find bay leaves that aren't brittle, dry, and flavorless? I'd be willing to buy, or even forage if need be. Thanks!!

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  1. The California Bay is slightly different than the Laurus nobilis. The California Bay is edible, but has a stronger and different taste. Are you good with that?

    California Bays are found in most parks with a stand of redwood trees, but between the Light Brown Apple Moth and park-non-foraging rules, it wouldn't be prudent to tell one's secret stash. City parks tend to have less strict "removal" rules (not a federal offense, at least), and some, at least in the berkeley and oakland hills, have bays.

    Finally, Penzys is a very reputable spice vendor that has local stores. Haven't checked out their bay leaves.

    3 Replies
    1. re: bbulkow

      A little known fact:

      The California Bay trees in the hills between Oakland and Orinda have been commercially harvested for years and the leaves that are sold are in much demand around the world.

      I believe even Spice IslandĀ® uses them.

      1. re: Mission

        Fascinating! Are they labeled as "california bay", or might a random package of Bay Leaves be either California Bay or Bay Laurel?

      2. re: bbulkow

        Penzey's bay leaves are really good. You could probably get relatively fresh ones at Rainbow, Berkeley Bowl, or Lhasa Karnak--anywhere that has high turnover.

        I've tried California bay leaves and to me the flavor's not right. Spice Islands should specify on the jar that they're California bay leaves, since it's not the same tree, not even in the same genus.

        Berkeley Bowl
        2020 Oregon St, Berkeley, CA 94703

        Lhasa Karnak Herb Company
        1938 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709

        Lhasa Karnak Herb Company
        2482 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

        Rainbow Grocery
        1745 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94103

        Penzeys Spices
        771 Santa Cruz Ave, Menlo Park, CA 94025

      3. I have a huge bay leaf tree in my yard in Oregon. It is trimmed into a very nice looking tree. You could plant on I am sure in SF if you have the room.

        1. I have seen them in Berkeley Bowl, in their herb section.

          Berkeley Bowl
          2020 Oregon St, Berkeley, CA 94703

          1 Reply
          1. re: artisan02

            I find them stronger and usually use half what called for. That being said I could probably supply Rainbow with a years worth from my sonoma property. I had to cut some own this year because they are also considered a fire hazard .

          2. Your replies are all so helpful. I will be checking Rainbow, since it's closest to me. Thanks again!
            PS. Robert, I look forward to checking out your new restaurant. :)

            1 Reply
            1. re: t.susannah.chen

              Just beware, as posters have noted, about the difference between California bay and true bay leaves. Every time I've been to Berkeley Bowl they've been California bay and they are SO not the same thing. I personally can't stand 'em, even if I use just a bit of a leaf. I find the taste superstrong, not just piney and mentholish but searingly so, with a flavor I'm tempted to call "dirty pine bark", except that I've no idea what dirty pine bark actually tastes like.....

              Berkeley Bowl
              2020 Oregon St, Berkeley, CA 94703

            2. The original comment has been removed