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How to Harvest Bay Leaves

Bay leaves come from the bay laurel tree. This small tree is grown either directly in the landscape or in large containers. Bay leaves are used as a flavoring in many dishes, ranging from sauces to meat. Bay leaves are used both fresh and dried, with the dried leaves often being more flavorful than the fresh ones. Dried leaves maintain their flavor for up to a year, making storage worthwhile. The leaves are usually used to flavor during the cooking time then removed afterward, as they are too tough to be eaten.

Harvest leaves in midsummer when the leaves have the largest store of their flavorful oils. Pick healthy, undamaged leaves from all over the tree until you gather the amount necessary.

Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Spread the leaves on the towels, making sure they do not overlap each other.

Place the leaves in a warm, dry room away from direct light. Allow the leaves to dry for two weeks, flipping each leaf over once during the drying process.

Check the leaves for any remaining moisture. Allow them to dry an additional week if they are still soft or dark green in spots.

Place dried bay leaves in an airtight jar or plastic bag. Store out of direct light in a 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit area for up to one year.

Tip

The leaves can also be hung in bunches tied together with string to dry if desired.

Bay trees are pruned in early spring. Leaves can be preserved at this time, though they may not be as flavorful.

Warning

Do not use heat during the drying process, as this will leach out the flavorful oils from the leaves.

Avoid picking leaves from just one area of the tree. Pick from all around the tree to avoid leaving bald spots.

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