If you’re wondering how to dry bay tree leaves (Laurus Nobilis), unless you want them dry for tomorrow, here is the easiest way to do it.
A search online reveals many options, advising how to dry bay leaves in the oven, dry bay leaves in the microwave, dry bay leaves in the aga and even how to dry bay leaves in a dehydrator.
If you have room in your airing cupboard or hotpress, or even if you have a good airy cupboard under the stairs, you won’t need to put yourself to the bother of any method that involves burning energy (including your own!) to dry bay leaves out for storage.
The important thing is though, to dry bay leaves out in the dark, and not in the sun. They should retain their green colour and not turn brown. When they are dry they should be packed into hard, dark rigid containers, never plastic bags or their volatile oils would leach.
If you are just picking off a leaf to use fresh in a soup or stew right away, pick a large mature leaf as these have the most flavour. Always pick perfect, unblemished leaves for cooking.
Always remove the leaves from a dish before serving.
Harvest and Dry Bay Leaves
You can harvest and use bay tree leaves any time of the year as they are evergreen, but if you wish to dry and store a quantity of leaves on their stems, do not do this in the winter when the tree goes through a period of dormancy.
The best time to prune a bay tree is from late spring to mid-summer.
Your bay tree must be at least two years old before you start to prune it, and never prune a bay tree later than the end of July.
Cut carefully, making sure not to damage the main upright header stem of the tree.
Only remove damaged branches, or those that are crashing or rubbing into each other.
When I bring my bay leaves indoors I give them a quick wash in filtered water.
I then hang them on the clothes line to drip dry for a few minutes – don’t leave them outside in strong sunlight.
Next I put them in the airing cupboard in the dark, and wait about a week until they are perfectly dried out.
Just a few minutes work gives me enough dried bay leaves to cook with all year, with plenty for my sons to use for flavouring their favourite spaghetti bolognese.
Why You Should Have Your Own Bay Tree
Supermarkets charge around £1 for 7 grams of bay leaves – that works out at around £140 per kilo, which is an outrageous price. A well established bay leaf tree will cost you less than a third of that in any good gardening centre, and will serve you well for many years to come. The bay tree, or Laurus Nobilis, really is a noble looking tree for your garden, and will not only add a wonderful depth of flavour and therapy to your foods, but will add majesty, beauty and pride to the smallest of gardens or balconies. Keep it in a large pot, so you can bring it indoors should a sharp frost or snowstorms come in winter.