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Turkish Bay Leaves versus California Bay Leaves


Which bay leaf is the best?

(quoted by cheftalk.com forum)

I've been coming across recipes that specify Turkish rather than California bay leaves. What's the taste and/ or culinary difference? In the past, I think I've preferred Turkish because they seemed milder. But now, when I go to the grocery store, I find that they're not marking the bottles the way they used to, so I'm not even sure what I'm getting. Is there a way to tell by sight?:confused:

Thanks! :)
The classic Turkish bay (laurus nobilis) has oval leaves 1-4 inches long and the California bay laurel, has long slender leaves 2-5 inches long.

The flavors are fairly similar, but the Turkish leaves are preferable for their subtler, less mentholated taste; they are also healthier to consume. Use bay leaves, especially the California variety, in moderation (1/2 to 1 leaf for 4-6 portions).
Thanks Kimmie! (This is such a great site! Anyone can get smart and thorough answers fast. :bounce: )
Why are Turkish bay leaves healthier?
Here in CT the Mountian Laural is our state flower,although we don't use it for cooking it is quite a beautiful specimen,The laural was declared by Appolo(greek god of the sun0 sacred.
The wreaths would be worn my kings and poets and even by the victors of battles. Because bay was a symbol of honor and greatness it was thought to protect against a # of ills.

The cultivar I use here on the eastcoast is "angustifolia" which is origally from the mederteranean and is what we see most commonly availible (green with wavy edges) excellent,subtle flavor.Aurea is aslo seen around here,it's the one you see with a touch of yellow in the leaves.

I grow my Bay in large hummus rich well drained soil pots so I can bring them indoors in the winter as they would die if left out in the winter.
A little trick I learned from my mother in law (and it works)
Put bay in with your flour,rice and grains to deter weevels.

I am not sure which is healthier,but bay in general offer a # of medicinal remedies as does many,many other herbs
Here is the blurb from Penzeys spices:

Turkish Bay Leaves are the best in the world. Though not as strong as the California variety, they have a natural depth of flavor that the California Bay Leaves can't hope to match. Bay leaves grow wild on the hilly mountains of southern Turkey in the area around Mersin (Icel) City. The wind there is perfect for growing bay leaves. Most of the year it comes out of the west across the Mediterranean and Aegean seas, picking up moisture and dropping it on the growing trees. 

Turkish Bay and Health matters

Bay leaves have diuretic and digestive qualities. They can also act as an appetite stimulant.

During the Middle Ages, bay leaves were used for medicinal purposes in Europe to treat dyspensia, flatulence, loss of appetite, colds, tonsilitis and viral infections, and for arometherapy. The bay oil has been in use for fragrance in cosmetics and perfumes.

Bay's aromatic oil contains a bacteria killing compound cineole (1,8-cineole), which is added to some toothpastes to prevent dental infections and tooth decay. Bay also contains chemical compounds collectively known as parthenolides that inhibit platelet cells' release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter playing a causative role in migraine. Bay leaves represent an effective herb for migrain along with feverfew (Tanacetum partenium) and the bark of willow trees (Salix species). Bay leaves have shown to lower blood sugar level in experimental animals and in human, and may help treat diabetes. Through its bacteriocidal ability and fragrance, bay is also used to treat body odor. It's also used to treat migraine headaches.
If possible, don't buy spices in little bottles at the supermarket if you can find them sold in bulk by a spice store that has a good turnover. They will be fresher and cost less.
Amazing stuff!!! :D :D :D

Thank you all so much for the fantastic info. It's such a pleasure to read posts from people who so clearly love what they do.

Jill and Alexia, I ve contacted www.bayleafturkey.com and they helped me to find best bay leaves in Turkey. They have their own factory.

What you mother recommended are old remedies from the middle ages.

What's really neat is to place either lots and lots of bay leaves or eucalyptus leaves underneath the bedsheets, between the mattress and sheets themselves. Sleeping in aromatic aromas is refreshing.
Bay leaves will also help prevent unwants insects from being in your pantry.


Here is a picture of the difference:

Since I've been cooking in France I've learned to use fresh bay leaves rather than the dried ones. One leaf goes a lot farther and the aromas it imparts are really something special.
I agree with bouland. Living in a country where almost everybody has a laurel in his garden, I never use dried bay leaves since they lack almost all their flavour. The fresh ones are really something different!
Apart from their "normal" use, a trick I have learned from my mom (but I think it's very common in Italy) is adding a bay leaf in the water where you boil chestnuts. It gives them a nice additional flavour.

For barbecueing I throw lots of bay leaves along with cinnamon sticks onto the coals for a subtle, extra flavor.

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