By Lynn Kirkland
In spring there will be a new crop of baby bay trees springing up around the garden. This is courtesy of the thrushes who are enjoying the plump, black berries on one of our bay trees. We have many bay trees at the herb farm however they do not all contribute to the diet of the resident birdlife. One tree in particular seems to have the role of procreation and is covered in bay berries. Theses are about the size of very small olives.
Sweet Bay, laurus nobilis, is an evergreen herb tree with dark green glossy
leaves and can reach the height of several metres. Signs of stress in a
bay tree are yellowing leaves or attack by scale insects.
The bay tree can make a magnificent hedge or on the other hand will be happy in a pot if you promise to repot it at least once a year.
The Bay was held in high esteem by the Romans, hence the botanical name of nobilis. They crowned their achievers in wreaths of bay leaves and it is thanks to the Romans that it was introduced into Europe as a culinary herb.
Well known as an essential when cooking corned beef it is also used in
stews and milk puddings. Bay leaves are always removed before serving the
dish as once it has imparted the flavour its job is done.
A bay leaf is an essential in a bouquet garni, along with a sprig of thyme, oregano and parsley.
Medicinally bay has been used for hundreds of years with Culpepper stating, "It can resist all the evils that Satan can do to man and these are not a few." He wrote, "Rheumatic complaints, cramps, tremblings and weariness and pain by sore travelling" referring to the common mode of transport, horseback.
There is much to commend the statuesque bay as an addition to your garden
and autumn is an excellent time to plant one in the ground or in a pot.