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Jan 25, 2014 04:47 PM

Difference between California and Turkish bay leaf?

According to my understanding, california bay leaf has a much more intense flavor but I'm pretty sure there's more to it than just california bay leaf being a stronger version of turkish bay leaf. What are the flavor differences and what applications does each type excel in? Penzey's says that Turkish although weaker has a "depth of flavor that the California Bay Leaves can't hope to match", but to be honest, it sounds like a bunch of marketing hype.

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  1. Umbellularia californica (a different genus from the genus in which Bay Laurel is placed) leaves have noticeably more menthol and eucalpytol (among other things) in them. Too much of that makes things start tasting more like cough drops.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Karl S

      A while back, I was making a recipe for swordfish kebabs that involved threading chunks of fish alternating with lemon wedges and fresh bay leaves. I had always done it with dried leaves because that's all I had, but one time I found fresh bay at the grocery store and was excited to make the recipe as written. It was California bay...which left me with swordfish only a koala could love.

    2. I agree with what Karl S said and Penzey's used to sell Bay Leaves / Laurel Leaves from Greece. The wholesale prices for Penzey's are much cheaper from turkey and they switched. The flavor is not the same at all and MUCH weaker than the Greek.
      California "bay leaves" taste like cough drops.

      2 Replies
        1. re: Karl S

          true. I remember making one 20 years ago that was fab!

      1. I'm a Californian and I had laurel growing in my garden in the hope that it would be useable. Fact is, it has a more resinous flavor that isn't completely pleasant. So now when I order bay leaves I select the Turkish ones.

        1. When I was growing up, certain things HAD to have a bay leaf in them... per my Nana... like any soup or stew. Had NO idea they even had a FLAVOR until I bought my own as an adult?? Nana's must have been from the 30's??

          Bought a bay laurel plant several years ago. Here in NJ, temps are such that in a sheltered area, CHANCE of surviving winter... NOT THIS WINTER!! Hauled "tree" out onto deck late-April and back inside in late-October. Last year, totally forgot/ignored 2'+ plant in rarely used diningroom!! Discovered totally wilted plant!! Immediately gave it a serious soak in sink, but it didn't come back to life! Next step was what I call the "kill it or cure it" treatment... a RADICAL trimming back to where branches were still green. Have NO idea what variety it is but those leaves did NOT go to waste. It actually finally started new growth... I'm more vigilant with it now!