Bay leaves, a favorite in many styles of cooking, come from the bay tree.
This semi-tropical, evergreen tree can thrive in Southern climes. Bay leaves work well in stews, soups, and herb blends—my mother-in-law always includes some in her homemade spaghetti sauce. Bay trees can grow as large as 30 feet, but you can also grow one well in a container, which makes it perfect for a home herb garden. Your plant will prefer a spot that is sunny and somewhat sheltered, so plant it close to a building or wall if you can. Then, don’t overwater it. If you do take the container-garden approach, you’ll be able to bring your bay in for winter.
Once your tree thrives, you need something to do with all those fragrant leaves. While you can use the leaves fresh or dry, be aware that fresh bay leaves will have a much stronger aroma. In the kitchen, we love their flavor in Baked and Buttered Bay Shrimp over Pasta, and in Roasted Herb Turkey and Gravy. Turn over a new leaf and plant a bay tree in your container garden. You’ll appreciate its flavors, and fresh herbs make every dish sing a sweeter song.