The leaves of this tree frequently enter into the recipes of cookery; but they ought not to be used without the greatest caution, and not at all unless the cook is perfectly aware of their effects. It ought to be known, that there are two kinds of bay-trees, -- the Classic laurel, whose leaves are comparatively harmless, and the Cherry-laurel, which is the one whose leaves are employed in cookery. They have a kernel-like flavour, and are used in blanc-mange, puddings, custards &c.; but when acted upon by water, they develop prussic acid, and, therefore, but a small number of the leaves should be used at a time.

Above we have described the difference between the cherry-laurel (Prunus Laurus cerasus) and the classic laurel (Laurus nobilis), the former only being used for culinary purposes. The latter beautiful evergreen was consecrated by the ancients to priests and heroes, and used in their sacrifices. "A crown of bay" was the earnestly-desired reward for great enterprises, and for the display of uncommon genius in oratory or writing. It was more particularly sacred to Apollo, because, according to the fable, the nymph Daphne was changed into a laurel-tree. The ancients believed, too, that the laurel had the power of communicating the gift of prophecy, as well as poetic genius; and, when they wished to procure pleasant dreams, would place a sprig under the pillow of their bed. It was the symbol, too, of victory, and it was thought that the laurel could never be struck by lightning. From this word comes that of "laureate;" Alfred Tennyson being the present poet laureate, crowned with laurel as the first of living bards.

Description: Perennial. Small tree in warm climate. Pot plant in northern climate. An evergreen with large, stiff, dull-green, oblong leaves and yellowish flowers in early spring. Purple, cherry-like berries.

Culture: Place plant outdoors in fairly rich sandy loam with good drainage. For a house plant, plant seeds or cuttings in a pot and use rich soil with plenty of humus. The plant needs a cool room in winter. If troubled with scale, wash with baking soda in winter. Plant will put out new leaves in late summer.

Preservation: Lay leaves in dark place to dry thoroughly.

  • Culinary: Add fresh to soups, stews, or fish dishes. Use in bouquet gami. Pack with stick licorice or dried figs.
  • Fragrance: Prunings in the fire make good incense. Boil leaves in water with orange peel for finger bowls. Lay among clothes as sachet.
  • Cosmetic: Berries powdered and mixed with honey make a good facial.
  • Repellent: A dried leaf in pasta and rice repels weevils.

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