Growing bay leaf at home is easy. This herb is a powerfully aromatic leaf used primarily for culinary purposes. Bay leaves have multiple varieties cultivated around the world today, but the original bay leaf came from the bay laurel tree (Laurus nobilis) which is native to the Asian side of the Mediterranean.
Bay leaf is also known as sweet bay and Grecian laurel, bay leaf is an herb typically used for infusing soups and sauces with an aromatic flavor. This herb leaves can be used in dried, crushed, and fresh form, they are mostly sold as dried whole leaves in the spice aisle of any grocery store.
How to Use Bay Leaf Herb
Actually bay leaves have many uses in cooking. Bay leaves are a common ingredient in the French “bouquet garni,” a traditional bundle of herbs that are tied together and added to soups, stews, sauces, and casseroles during the cooking process.
This herb are also commonly used in marinades for meat and fish, it can also be added to boiling water to cook seafood like shrimp and crab, and used in pickling solutions. In addition to these various savory applications, they are also occasionally added to the cream mixture for rice pudding, infusing the dessert with a subtle herbal flavor.
When to Plant Bay Leaves
Bay leaf trees are actually native to humid climates of the Mediterranean region and they can be grown year-round in warm temperatures. Bay leaf trees grow best in USDA hardiness zones eight to ten. The best time to plant bay leaf trees is in late spring or early summer when the threat of frost is no longer present. Bay leaf trees can’t survive in temperatures below twenty degrees Fahrenheit and if you live in a cold climate you can consider planting the tree as a container plant so you can bring it inside during the winter months.
How to Plant a Bay Leaf trees
You can easily plant an already-established Bay leaf tree in your backyard if you want to harvest the leaves quickly. You can also plant a Bay leaf tree from seeds found at your local garden center. Actually it may take a couple of years for your Bay leaf trees to mature and produce bay leaves for you to use. Here are some tips on how to grow a bay leaf plant from a seed.
- Germinate your Bay leaf trees from seed: To actually grow bay leaf trees from seeds you have to fill a large tray with soilless seed-starting mix and place your Bay leaf seeds on the surface, keeping them two inches apart. Then cover them with a little more soilless mix and mist with water from a spray bottle. You have to leave the tray in a warm area that gets around 8 hours of sun a day. It can take anywhere from 10 days to 6 months for your Bay leaf seeds to germinate.
- Pick a good garden spot or good container: You need to pick a spot for your plant that gets partial sun and afternoon shade. If you actually live in a place that has a USDA hardiness grade of 8 to 10, you can leave your bay leaves outside year-round. On the other hand, if you live in a climate with temperatures that dip below twenty degrees Fahrenheit for the winter, consider planting your Bay leaf trees inside a container so you can bring it inside when it gets especially cold. If you want to grow your Bay leaf trees as a potted plant, you will need to repot it as it grows.
- Prepare your soil for planting: Whether you’re growing your Bay leaf trees from a seed, seedling, or small tree, you will want it to have soil that is acidic to alkaline—of a pH of around 4.5 to 8.3—and you will want to make sure that it drains well to prevent root rot.
- Planting your seedlings: Once your Bay leaf seeds have sprouted, you can easily plant your growing Bay leaf trees in a large pot or in an herb garden. You can use potting soil if you’re planting in a container or well-dug soil if you’re planting in a garden. Plant the seedling or tree as deep as it was in your original container. Early spring is actually the best time to plant your seedlings.
Bay Leaf Trees Care
Once you’ve planted your Bay leaf seedlings or trees, you’ll need to care for the Bay leaf trees as it matures. Here is an overview of how to care for your Bay leaf trees;
- Water your Bay leaf trees regularly: You have to water your plant regularly and also allow the soil to dry out fully before watering again. During the warm summer months you will really need to water your Bay leaf trees more regularly. Bay leaf trees in pots may need more watering.
- Make sure you regulate the amount of sun depending on your climate: Actually Bay leaf trees enjoy full sun if planted in cold climates, and partial shade if in hotter zones. Plant your Bay leaf trees in a location that gets full sun and partial shade.
- Mulch your Bay leaf trees: You need to spread mulch on the topsoil around your Bay leaf trees to keep the soil healthy, while keeping any mulch away from the Bay leaf tree’s trunk.
- Fertilize your Bay leaf trees monthly: You can add organic fertilizer to your Bay leaf tree’s soil once a month to encourage your Bay leaf tree’s growth.
Harvesting Bay Leaves
Wait for your bay leaf tree to mature for about 2 years before harvesting the leaves. Below are the guides on how to harvest your bay leaves once the tree has matured.
- Picking the leaves: It’s best to actually wait 2 years before harvesting any leaves from your bay tree. Once your green leaves have actually grown to a healthy, large size, harvesting it is very easy. The best time of day to pick bay leaves from the tree is early in the morning because they will actually retain their aromatic qualities best at this time.
- Drying the leaves: Lay the bay leaves out on a piece of parchment paper in a warm, dry room. Leave the leaves to dry for about 2 weeks. Once the leaves are dried, you can use them whole or either crushes them.