Description: Evergreen tree. Lance shaped leaves are arranged alternately on the branches. Leaves are a dark green on top adn a light leathery green on the bottom. The leaves have a distinctive Bay spice odor. The tree can sometimes be found by smell alone. The flowers are in yellowish-white umbels. The round nut-like fruits have a green to purple fleshy covering. If the fleshy coverish is removed, the nut shell is a light tan, the inner nut meat is greenish.
Habitat: Common below 5000 feet. Hillsides, margins of streams and flatlands.
Uses: Pick leaves & air dry. These leaves may be used in recipes calling for Bay. The commercial spice Bay ocmes from a different species of tree (Lauris nobilis). Because California Bay is more aromatic, 1/3 less is needed in recipes calling for Bay leaves.
Remove the dried nut meats from the shell & they may be eaten raw, though they can be bitter. Roasted nuts are more palatable. Spread whole dried nuts on a cookie sheet in a 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes. Taste test the roasting nuts occasionally so they are not scorched. Even with the roasting, they can still be bitter.
Other: A tea brewed from the leaves was used as a disinfectant by early settlers.
Bay leaves act as a natural insect repellant. California Indians used to fumigate their lodges by burning a bough of Bay. A dog collar of woven leaves help to repel fleas. Packets of leaves placed in cupboards seems to repel a variety of insects.