When to harvest bay leaves

The Bay leaf tree is also called the Bay laurel or Sweet bay leaf (Laurus nobilis) is a Mediterranean tree whose leaves are used as a herb in cooking. 

So, the question arises...when should Bay leaves be harvested for best flavor?

There are differences of opinion on the response to this question but in general Bay leaves can be harvested year round (as an evergreen tree it has leaves 12 months of the year).  The flavor that the leaves can produce however grows gradually more intense with time as the leaf matures until they begin to dry up prior to falling off the tree.

There are some that hold that Bay leaves have a more intense fragrance just before the tree flowers.  I´m not aware of there being any relationship between the leaf fragrance and the flowering period of the tree.

The leaves are best used in cooking after having been properly dried for at least a few days.  One way to dry the leaves is to hang a branch upside down in a dry location for a week or so.  The leaves can then by removed from the branch and placed in a container or can be left hanging until needed.  The flavor of the leaves left out in the open will gradually fade over time.

Another key fact in the use of Bay leaves is that although they give a nice flavor to a dish the leaf itself is not eaten.  This is why the leaves are often left whole...it is easier to remove them.  A crushed leaf will give more taste but is very difficult to remove.


  1. I absolutely love this blog and it's on my blog roll, hoping more people will discover it.
    I am now tempted to check out hardiness zone on these trees. I think they are good in my zone 6, if so I will get one. How could you not with its double duty, + it's an evergreen. Can imagine that flavors are more intense compared to that from a jar. I still have rosemary from last year and the flavor is incomparable to that of purchased rosemary.

  2. I know this tree will grow well in zone 8 and possibly zone 7 but I´m not sure how well it does in zone 6. I suspect it would not do nearly as well but it is worth a try.

  3. I have found bay leaves to be the magic ingredient in many of my homemade soups and stews... thanks to my Mother, who used them. Leave it out... and sure, its ok... but there's that certain special something missing. A touch of bay leaf, all the difference! It grows wild near where I live, I can't wait to go harvest a bit more. Its a wonderful hike into the mountains to get it, too.

  4. Thank you. I have a bay tree and Ive been reading a lot of comments on how to harvest bay leaves. This is the best of the lot. Simple, to the point and makes the most sense.