Bay trees, also known as laurel or Laurus nobilis, belong to the Lauraceae family. They grow in temperate regions of Europe and Asia, including North America. The tree is native to southern France, Spain, Portugal, etc. This tree produces bay leaves that have a strong aromatic flavor. It has been used for centuries in cooking because it adds an aromatic taste to dishes. In fact, this herb was once considered sacred by many cultures.
Now, almost every dish, especially Asian cuisines, use bay leaves to add aroma and mouthwatering taste. Thus, we give you further knowledge about this herb. In this article, we wrote about the shelf life of bay leaves and how to store them properly in your spice cabinet. So, do bay leaves go bad? Read more below.
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How Do Bay Leaves Taste Like (Fresh vs. Dried)
There are two types of bay leaves that you can use: fresh leaves and dry leaves. But do they have opposite flavors? Let’s see!
Fresh Bay Leaves
The first type of bay leaf is called “fresh” bay leaves. These leaves have a pungent smell and have a more bitter and astringent flavor, especially when eaten raw. These fresh herbs come from young plants with green vibrant color. You will find these leaves at farmers’ markets during the spring season. When you buy them, make sure that they look healthy and not wilted.
Dry Bay Leaves
Dry bay leaves are usually found on grocery shelves. These dried leaves are brownish-green in color. Some people say that their flavor tastes similar to oregano, while others claim that it tastes like thyme. However, Asian cuisines use this a lot as a substitute for black pepper. When you want to get the best flavor out of this dried herb, make sure to mix it into water, broth, or soup.
Do Bay Leaves Go Bad? (Bay Leaves Shelf Life)
Are you curious about how long do bay leaves last? Well, dry leaves tend to stay longer than fresh ones. According to some studies, fresh bay leaves lose up to 50% of their flavor potency quite quickly. On the other hand, dry bay leaves retain 90% of their original flavor even after many years. Therefore, if you plan to keep bay leaves for a long time, then choose dry over fresh.
How Do You Know If the Bay Leaf Is Bad
Expired bay leaves may not give you severe sickness, but they will lose their depth of flavor over time, which makes them useless on your spice cabinet. You know it is time to throw the bay leaves away when:
1. Your kitchen smells strongly of bay leaves
2. There is mold growing inside the jar where you stored them
3. The leaves start turning yellow
4. The leaves become brittle
5. The leaves begin to smell sour
If any of those things happen, then it means that the bay leaves went bad. Throw them away immediately so that no bacteria grow on them. Also, do not forget to wash all utensils, spice drawer, or the airtight container where you store them before using them again.
How Do You Store Bay Leaves For A Long Time
A bay leaf can last up to several months and years depending on the storage condition. If you have it in bulk, you do not have to worry since it is not as perishable as other spices and herbs are. Now, we will give you tips on how to store dry and fresh leaves. There are four basic storage method that you should keep:
- Keep in an airtight container with a tight-fitting lid
- Keep away from direct sunlight
- Keep away from moisture
- Keep away from heat
Storing Dry Bay Leaves
The best way to store a dry bay leaf for a long time is in the freezer. It helps keep the flavor, oil, and aroma. Here’s how to do it:
1. Place the dry leaves in an airtight container with a tight-fitting lid so no moisture can come inside.
2. You can also use a Ziploc bag, but it is better to double it to prevent forming of condensation.
Tip: Make sure not to take the dry leaves in and out from the freezer. If you plan to use it in a couple of days, just place them in an airtight container on your spice cabinet or spice drawer.
Storing Fresh Bay Leaves
First of all, when you select fresh bay leaves, make sure to have clean hands because dirt could be transferred onto the leaves. After selecting the right size, cut off the stem end first. Then rinse the leaves under cold water until there is no more dirt left. Finally, pat the leaves dry by placing them between paper towels.
Here are the steps in storing them for a long time:
1. Put the dried leaves into an airtight container with tight fitting lid. Make sure that the leaves are completely covered with the liquid.
2. Keep the container at room temperature together with other fresh spices and herbs for two weeks. This allows the flavors to develop fully.
3. Once the leaves are ready, transfer them to another airtight container with tight-fitting lid. Label this new container with the current date.
4. To preserve its quality, put the container into the freezer. Use within 1-3 years.
How to Store Bay Leaves In the Cupboard?
Bay leaves should always stay in the dark cupboard or spice drawer if you use it regularly. However, if you want to extend its shelf life or flavor over time, here are some ideas:
- When you open the door, close it tightly.
- Remove the leaves after every 3 months.
- Wash the containers thoroughly before putting back the leaves.
- Avoid exposing the leaves to light.
- Never leave the leaves exposed to humidity.
- Always check whether the leaves are still good enough to use.
- Do not place beside any sources of moisture.
What Are the Health Benefits of Bay Leaves
There are many health benefits associated with using bay leaves such as anti-inflammatory properties, antioxidant activity, antibacterial effects, antifungal activities, etc. They help reduce inflammation, boost immunity, fight against bacteria, fungi, viruses, parasites, cancer cells, and even improve digestion. The following are some examples of these health benefits:
- Reduce Inflammation – Bay leaves contain high levels of antioxidants which act like natural painkillers. These compounds work well to relieve muscle aches and joint pains.
- Boost Immunity – Bay leaves contain vitamin C, E, K, B6, folic acid, iron, calcium, magnesium, etc. that support immune system function.
- Fight Against Cancer Cells – Bay leaf contains flavonoids that protect our body from free radicals damage.
- Improve Digestion – Bay leaves stimulate digestive enzymes production. Therefore, they aid in breaking down food particles and improving nutrient absorption.
- Antibiotic Properties – Bay leaves contain eugenol, thymol, carvacrol, cineole, camphor, menthol, etc.
- Anti Fungal Activity – Eugenol found in bay leaves has been proven effective in fighting fungal infections. It also helps prevent yeast infection.
- Prevent Parasites – Thymol present in bay leaves can kill parasitic worms.
So next time you need bay leaves, just grab one! You will definitely enjoy their unique aroma and taste.
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I keep bay leaves in the fridge?
Yes, but only when stored properly. If kept in a refrigerator, bay leaves lose their fragrance and become bitter. Also, they may turn brownish due to oxidation. So make sure that your bay leaves are dry and clean before storing them in the fridge.
What can I do with old bay leaves?
You can add them to soups, stews, sauces, meat dishes, salads, rice dishes, vegetable dishes to add subtle flavor along with other seasoning blends. Just remember to remove them once used.
Can you use bay leaves after expiration date?
No, because they have lost most of their nutrients and flavor potency. Take note of the storage time labeled on the packaging and follow it.
Do bay leaves keep bugs away?
No they do not work that well – some people say if you put fresh leaves into water, then yes. But a dry bay leaf will not.