You may hear this plant being referred to by a number of different names such as bay laurel, bay tree or Indian bay to name a few. So many of us have these growing in our gardens but are not sure how to use them. Generally speaking, bay leaves are picked then dried before they are utilised for some type of culinary purpose. Please note that it is important to check that the bay leaves are edible, there are some toxic variants of this plant. The time given below is for preparation, the drying process will take longer.
Using the garden secateurs cut off the bay leaves whilst being careful not to cut off the flower buds. The amount of leaves you cut off depends on how many you’ll need.
The flower buds can be seen here
You can also take off the leaves that are starting to die or have brown spots on. This process known as pruning will increase the overall health of the plant.
Brown spots on the leaves
Separate the leaves so that the greener ones are reserved for cooking purposes. The slightly spotty leaves can be used in barbeques in addition to hickory chips. This will add a fragrance that complements meat really well.
Put the leaves in a strainer and wash them.
Hand tip: wash the 2 sets of leaves separately so they do not get mixed up
After washing them, shake the strainer to dispose of any excess water. Keep the leaves in the strainer for at least 10 minutes, this will allow any extra water to drain off.
To dry the leaves place some paper towels on a wide tray.
Spread the leaves out onto the tray.
Place this on a window sell and allow to dry for at least a few days. The great thing is bay leaves tend to repel small bugs and flies, so there is a low chance that they will become infested during the drying process.
Once the leaves have dried they are ready for use. They can be used when cooking many Asian dishes including pilau rice.
Store the bay leaves for later use by keeping them in an air tight container.