The native bay laurel should not be confused with the Grecian or sweet bay. Despite the similarities, the native bay laurel grows into a large tree. The foliage can be used as seasoning like Grecian bay, but has a very different and much more pungent flavor. It can often be found fresh in markets, labeled as Grecian or sweet bay, and has likely ruined all sorts of recipes.
Grecian or sweet bay, Laurus nobilis, stays much smaller much longer. It takes many years to grow to thirty feet tall, often with many trunks flaring out from the center. Trees that are nearly twice as tall are ancient. Because of slow growth, Grecian bay can be happy in large containers as long as it is pruned to stay proportionate to the confined root system.
The three or four inch long, and inch or so wide leaves of Grecian bay can be difficult to distinguish from those of bay laurel. The minor differences are that Grecian bay leaves have slightly undulate margins with a few small and sometimes barely perceptible serrations (teeth) that bay laurel lacks. The leaf apexes of Grecian bay leaves are typically a bit more blunt. For culinary purposes, it is important to be aware that dried leaves and fresh leaves have very different flavors.
4 thoughts on “Grecian Bay”
Interesting. There is so much different vegetation in CA.
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There are many different climates and soils here. I may have mentioned earlier that there are more climate zones at work than there are in the entire state of Oklahoma. Actually, many individual states have fewer climate zones than there are within walking distance here. Although many of the climates here are famously mild, they are also very diverse, including one of the hottest climates in the World, and some of the heaviest snowfall in the World. That is why the cinema industry was initially established in Niles before relocating to Hollywood. So much diverse scenery is available within driving distance.
I had a Grecian Bay kept in a large pot for several years, but I didn’t realize that last summer the water going to it was being blocked by other plants so it dried out and died. Made me so sad, but thankfully I know of a nursery that sells it so I will get another this spring. Keeping it in a pot is key to keeping it from becoming a HUGE shrub!
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Yes, and they are more conducive to container gardening. If they stay potted so long that their medium (potting soil) deteriorates, they can be pulled out, root pruned, and repotted for several more years. I suppose that I should grow it also, but the common California bay grows wild here. I am of Italian descent, but am also Californian, so I know how to use the native bay. However, it is not the same as the traditional Grecian bay.