It was a shock the first time I saw healthy, spray free Bay Leaves and compared them to the pale dried out leaves in those little packets at the supermarket that cost $$$. After visiting a garden not far from here and realising the huge 4 x 3m tree in the front garden was a Bay Tree we set about planting three. Surely if it can grow up the road it can grow here. And for those gardeners who are always looking for something to grow that the wallabies, pademelons, possums and rabbits don’t eat add a Bay Tree to your list, put a guard around it for safe measure until it is established.
Look out for branches or small bunches of Bay Leaves at markets or plant a tree in your garden or in a big pot. They like full sun and are easy to care for. Even buying small bunches and storing them this way is more cost effective and you know they haven’t been sprayed with pesticides.
How to Dry & Store Bay leaves:
Make sure your leaves are spray free, that dogs don’t urinate on the branches you are collecting leaves from and that a bird hasn’t perched on the tree and gone to the toilet. If you do find bird droppings on leaves throw them in the compost. So just to be clear, first pick your clean healthy leaves, take them inside, then at a different time remove the soiled leaves, dispose of them then wash your hands well or use your gardening gloves.
Prune small branches or pick leaves closer to the middle stem, that way you are thinning the tree at the same time and establishing good air flow between the branches (more air flow equals the tree being less susceptible to mould & mildew that in turn attracts pests and diseases).
Wash your leaves well with cold running water, put them between two clean tea towels and pat dry.
After the excess water is dried off the leaves place them onto a cake cooling rack out of direct sunlight to dry out further for a couple of hours just so the leaves are no longer moist.
Once dry place them in a suitable freezer container or zip lock bag.
You don’t need to defrost the Bay Leaves before cooking with them they can just go straight into the pot, and if there isn’t any moisture left on the leaves they won’t stick together in the freezer. On a cold rainy day when you are cooking it is so convenient to reach for the bay leaves in the freezer instead of having to go outside to the Bay Tree!
April 4, 2019