Laurus nobilis is an aromatic evergreen tree or large shrub with green, glabrous, smooth leaves, in the flowering plant family Lauraceae. It is native to the Mediterranean region and is used as bay leaf for seasoning in cooking. Its common names include bay tree, bay laurel, sweet bay, true laurel, Grecian laurel, or simply laurel. Laurus nobilis figures prominently in classical Greco-Roman culture.
The laurel is an evergreen shrub or small tree, variable in size and sometimes reaching 23–59 ft. tall. Yours will presumably remain a bit more refined in size. The leaves are glabrous, 2.4–4.7 in. long and 0.8–1.6 in. broad, with an entire (untoothed) margin. On some leaves the margin undulates. The fruit is a small, shiny black berry-like drupe about 0.4 in. long that contains one seed.
Our plants are grown free of any chemicals other than an occassional, dilute fertilizer solution. You will want to transplant it eventually into a larger, and perhaps more ornate container and watch it grow. Remember that plants use their leaves for photosynthesis and growth, so avoid the temptation to use too many leaves until the plant reaches about 16"x16" in size, after which you can remove leaves for cooking more regularly. Because this plant is typically grown in mediterranean, subtropical, and temperate, climates in hardiness zone 8-11, you should grow it outdoors from spring to fall and then in a bright, sunny window when temperatures fall below 30 degrees fahrenheit. Let the soil dry slightly to the touch between waterings.
The leaves are the source of several popular herbs and one spice used in a wide variety of recipes, particularly among Mediterranean cuisines. Most commonly, the aromatic leaves are added whole to Italian pasta sauces. They are typically removed from dishes before serving, unless used as a simple garnish. Whole bay leaves have a long shelf life of about one year, under normal temperature and humidity. Whole bay leaves are used almost exclusively as flavor agents during the food preparation stage.
Ground bay leaves, however, can be ingested safely and are often used in soups and stocks, as well as being a common addition to a Bloody Mary. Dried laurel berries and pressed leaf oil can both be used as robust spices.
Laurus nobilis is a widespread relic of the laurel forests that originally covered much of the Mediterranean Basin when the climate of the region was more humid. With the drying of the Mediterranean during the Pliocene era, the laurel forests gradually retreated, and were replaced by the more drought-tolerant sclerophyll plant communities familiar today. Most of the last remaining laurel forests around the Mediterranean are believed to have disappeared approximately ten thousand years ago, although some remnants still persist in the mountains of southern Turkey, northern Syria, southern Spain, north-central Portugal, northern Morocco, the Canary Islands and in Madeira.
Text and Photograph adapted from Wikipedia