Bay Leaves: The Healthy Leaf from the Past?
Bay Leaves are an ancient spice, most famous for their usage in ancient Greece. It’s now a staple in European cuisine, as well as growing in popularity around the world. They can be used in cooking most soups, stews, sauces, vegetable and meat dishes. One or two leaves plus a slow cooking method is enough to infuse a score of new taste. The leaves are most often used whole and removed before eating, so making them very simple to add to recipes.
Nowadays, more parts of the world have also begun to cultivate their own Bay Leaves. India and Pakistan have their own Bay Leaves. Indonesia, California and Mexico do too. So what is it about this herb that has everyone wanting a piece of it?
Health benefits of Bay Leaves
They improve glucose and lipid profiles of Type 2 Diabetics. A study found that merely consuming 1-3 grams per day of bay leaves led to a decrease in risk factors for diabetes and health diseases for type II diabetics. To get the maximum results, these leaves have to be consumed as a powder. This is because the compounds in bay leaf enable the body to process insulin more efficiently. Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2613499/
Antiseptic, and anti-cancer: Bay leaves are loaded with many active components. Among these, the most well researched include α-pinene, β-pinene, myrcene, limonene, linalool, methyl chavicol, neral, α-terpineol, geranyl acetate, eugenol, and chavicol. These naturally occurring compounds have been extensively studied and known to have been antiseptic, anti-oxidant, digestive, and thought to have anti-cancer properties. Source: http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/bay-leaf.html
Aromatherapy: Due to their smell, Bay Leaves are also great for use in Aromatherapy. Research by the US Government found that the use of this particular tradition in some cultures led to better stress relief. They found that it helped to alleviate headaches, migraines and also ease the pain during a flu and common cold. The reasoning is that it smells of various popular herbs: Eucalyptus, Pine and even grass. However, some people also complained that they stress returned after therapy overdoses. Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1062165/
Anti-inflammatory, and immune system boosting: Indian Ayurvedic literature covers Bay Leaves as a remedy for many ailments. These were researched scientifically, and many claims were found to have some substance to them. These include the antioxidant, antidiabetic and anti-cancer properties mentioned earlier. They also found that it had immune system boosting properties and acted as a good anti-inflammatory substance. Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24236996
The Regency Bay Leaf
Market price today:
3G (0.11 OZ) USD 2.0
20G (0.71 OZ) USD 6.0
50G (1.8 OZ) USD 11.0
100G (3.5 OZ) USD 18.0
Bay Leaves Cooking Tips
Of course, we know that Bay Leaves are hugely popular for their flavour alone. Here’s how you can use them.
Bay Leaves impart a warm herbal and wine flavour to food. The original Bay Laurel, grown in Turkey, has a soft flavour profile that benefits greatly from slow cooking. It’s often the crux to cooking warm, layered flavours such as those found in soups. Add whole leaves to liquids and let them release their flavour in the long, slow cooking processes.
You can also steam with bay leaves. When steaming fish or vegetables, put a few Bay Leaves in the steamer with the food. You’ll find that a subtle taste and the intoxicating aroma of the Bay Leaves has been fused into the food.
Use Bay Leaves in pickling. Add a few leaves to whatever you’re pickling overnight to discover a new part to this ancient herb.
Infuse with desserts! This one is almost always overlooked, but it’s one way to turn an ordinary custard into an exotic dessert. Infuse the bay leaves with milk-based desserts, and carry on cooking as normal.
Remove before eating: Bay Leaves are very tough, and not intended to eat directly. Always remember to remove the leaves before serving food to avoid choking or general discomfort. Bay Leaf powder can be eaten, but be aware of buying bay leaves directly as powder: it’s often mixed with flavourless part such as stems. Not to mention, with powder you have no idea of the quality. Always buy whole!