Bay leaf trees are actually small, evergreen shrubs that are hardy in USDA climate zones 8 through 11. Grow this fragrant bush outdoors anyplace the temperature won't fall below 25 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also grow bay leaf trees indoors in pots.
Origins and History
Bay leaf trees are indigenous to Asia Minor, and it spread to the Mediterranean area. According to legend, the Oracle of Delphi chewed bay leaves. Bay, often called laurel, was well known in both ancient Greece and Rome. Poets in both cultures wore wreaths of laurel.
The leaves of this tree, used as a modern spice, are oval with sharp points. They range from 1 to 3 inches long. The surface of the leaves are smooth, with the tops being darker than the bottoms. When dried, the surface of the leaves turns from glossy to matte.
Preparation and Storage
The leaves of the tree are easily dried by hanging or any other common drying method. The dried leaves should be green. Leaves that have become gray are too old and have lost much of their flavor.
In addition to being a spice, traditional medicine lists a number of benefits to the leaves of the bay tree. Bay used to be used to keep moths from clothes. Lauric acid in the leaves makes it a natural insecticide. Bay leaves are reputed to treat high blood sugar, migraines and headaches, as well as high blood sugar and ulcers.
Growing Bay Trees
If you live in USDA climate zones 8 though 11, you can grow your bay leaf tree outdoors. However, in other zones, grow your tree in a pot. During the warmer months, keep your potted bay leaf tree outdoors. Only bring it in for the winter, but be careful to bring it in before freezing temperatures arrive. If necessary, use a grow light to increase available light over the winter.