Bay Laurel Flavour and Fragrance
Answered by: Inge Poot
Question from: Thea deGroot
Posted on: November 13, 2001

I have a question about a bay laurel plant that I purchased from you several years ago. It is doing very well and looks more like a tree or a large shrub now. I have it outside every summer and am able to overwinter it in a good place in our house every year. However, I find that the leaves do not smell as fragrant as the ones that I purchase and I also think that they don’t have as much flavour as I would have hoped. What might be the cause of this? Are there other bay laurels that might have more flavour such as you might find in the oreganos and the thymes? Do the leaves need to be a certain age or be harvested and dried in a certain way? I have spent some time researching this question on the internet already and would be most grateful for any help you can give me.

Flavour and fragrance of almost all herbs is very dependent on culture. When the plant is stressed by lots of sun and little nutrients it will make the slowest growth with the most intense flavour and fragrance. Most house plants experience exactly the opposite conditions. They are fertilized regularely and for half of the year they get our much weaker Northern latitude sunlight out of doors and then they get popped into a dimly lit house with even weaker sunlight getting in the windows! No wonder they have less flavour than the leaves harvested in the sub-tropics.

There undoubtedly are slight differences in flavour in the various clones of bay trees just as there are differences in all characters of seed grown plants. Since our plants are seed grown (as are the plants in commercial bay tree plantations) there are bound to be differences amongst the plants in all characters. We have never had anyone mention your observation before and can only assume that your main problem is probably too lush a growth.

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