Laurel: general characteristics
The laurel is an evergreen tree introduced into the Mediterranean flora from Asia in antiquity. It is a bushy plant with long, oval, pointed and hard leaves, bitter in taste but with a balsamic aroma. It is a dioecious plant, that is, there are specimens that bear the female reproductive organs and specimens that bear the males. It produces an olive-sized berry that when ripe (usually in October) takes on a fairly dark color. The fruit, like the leaves, contains a high percentage of greasy and greenish essential oils, very fragrant, such as: eugenol, eucalyptus, pine, cineole, etc. Two different species belong to the genus Laurus: Laurus nobilis angustifolia (long and narrow leaves) and Laurus nobilis aurea (leaves tending towards yellowing).
Main properties of Laurus Nobilis
The leaves and fruits are mainly used for laurel. The leaves are used mainly in the domestic economy, as a condiment, while the fruits (to a lesser extent also the leaves) are preferred for medicinal uses, thanks to their richness in essential oils. To take full advantage of the benefits of the leaves and fruits, it is advisable to harvest them at the end of winter, at the beginning of spring, around March, even if they are rich in them at any time of the year. The medicinal properties of this plant have been known since the times of the Greeks and Romans. Among the famous components of this plant are eugenol and limonene, excellent antioxidant, digestive and anti-cancer substances. They are also very rich in vitamin C, which strengthens the immune system and promotes wound healing.
laurel in the kitchen
In cooking, as already mentioned, bay leaves are mainly used, both fresh and dried. Its aroma is so intense that one or two are enough to flavor a large amount of food. They are often used in grilled meats, fish, infusions, soups or in tomato puree, to eliminate their bitter taste. You can even add some to make steamed vegetables more “interesting”! As seen, it is mostly used in long-cooked dishes, as the best flavor is released with long-lasting and constant calorie intake. But beware: it is a good idea to always remove the bay leaves before serving the dishes because, although they give off an excellent aroma, if chewed, they have an unpleasant bitter taste. Another interesting use which combines the pleasant aroma of laurel and all its beneficial properties, is the preparation of infusions and infusions, to be enjoyed both hot and cold. It can be combined with any other aroma or fruit that we like, such as lemon, anise, chamomile, etc. Let’s see how to do it below.
Laurel plant: How: how to prepare laurel infusions.
There are many berry herbal teas, each with different effects, based on various combinations of herbs. For a great infusion of any kind, you should boil water, steep it in your favorite herbal blend, steep for about 10-15 minutes, then strain and sweeten to your liking (with honey or brown sugar ). Here are some combinations and their effects: for a digestive and calming effect in case of abdominal pain, combine six dried bay leaves with the peel of two lemons; for a purifying effect, combine two fresh bay leaves with two anise stars; against menstrual abdominal spasms, on the other hand, it is useful to combine 1 gram of anise with a pinch of chamomile flowers. To conclude a recipe against cold symptoms: a bay leaf, two or three sage leaves, a clove of garlic and the zest of a lemon. Seeing is believing!