Laurus nobilis, or bay laurel, is a tall, perennial tree that grows to more than 12 feet high. Both the berries and leaves of the bay laurel serve a variety of purposes. Use dry bay leaves as a seasoning in spaghetti sauce and stews, as well as meat, fish and poultry dishes. Oil is extracted from the berries and used to make laurel oil, laurel soap, cosmetics and medicinal tinctures to treat ear aches, asthma and urinary ailments. Harvesting and preserving laurel bay berries in a few simple steps.
Pick the bay leaves early in the day. Select mature leaves that are free of damage, disease or insects.
Spread the leaves on a tray lined with dry paper towels. Place a layer of paper towels on top of the bay leaves, and another tray on the paper towels. Place a few unopened cans or jars on the top tray to weight it down. This prevents the leaves from curling as they dry.
Store the dried bay leaves in an airtight container. Place the container in your pantry or cupboard.
Pick the bay laurel berries after they ripen, usually after October. The berries are used for their extract of laurel oil.
Boil the berries in water for 8 to 8 hours in a large saucepan, adding more water as needed. Skim the oil off with a spoon as it rises to the surface of the water. Spoon the oil into a fine-mesh strainer or through cheesecloth set on top of a large bowl.
Let the laurel oil cool. Pour the oil into jars or bottles using a funnel and seal them tightly. Store the oil in a cool, dark place.
Things You Will Need
- 2 trays
- Paper towels
- Airtight container
- Large saucepan
- Fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth
- Large bowl
- Bottles or jars
- Harvest the bay leaves in the summer and autumn, especially if you plan to pick quite a few of the leaves at one time. Never pick more than 1/3 to 1/2 of the leaves at once.
- Always remove dried bay leaves after using them in food preparation, as the leaves are sharp and may cut your mouth or throat.