Bay leaves – Laurus nobilis
Laurus nobilis figures prominently in classical Greek, Roman, and Biblical culture. Worldwide, many other kinds of plants in diverse families are also called “bay” or “laurel”, generally due to similarity of foliage or aroma to Laurus nobilis, and the full name is used for the California bay laurel (Umbellularia), also in the family Lauraceae.
The plant is the source of several popular herbs and one spice used in a wide variety of recipes, particularly among Mediterranean cuisines. Most commonly, the aromatic leaves are added whole to Italian pasta sauces. However, even when cooked, whole bay leaves can be sharp and abrasive enough to damage internal organs, so they are typically removed from dishes before serving, unless used as a simple garnish. Whole bay leaves have a long shelf life of about one year, under normal temperature and humidity. Whole bay leaves are used almost exclusively as flavor agents during the food preparation stage.
The leaf of the bay laurel, a native shrub of the lands surrounding the northern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean, has a mythic history. Ancient mythology recounts that Apollo pursued the uninterested nymph Daphne. Apollo stalked Daphne until the gods granted her protection by turning her into a bay tree. In the Greek language, the herb is still called “dafni.” At the Temple of Delphi, which is dedicated to Apollo, the priestesses would eat bay leaves before divining the future. Even the roof of the temple was thatched bay leaves. This roofing not only served as a sunscreen, but protection from lightning, disease, and evil spirits.
Romans considered the bay tree the best protection from thunderstorms. As recently as the beginnings of the American era, superstition held that when bay trees died, disaster followed.
Safety: No known precautions
Country of origin: Turkey