Bay leaf, or as popularly called Tej patta, is one of the chief ingredients that has been in use in Indian homes since time immemorial. The three-veined olive green-coloured leaf is not only an awesome flavouring essence and aromatic component of Indian cuisine but is a wonderful tonic and as well.
The bay leaf that we commonly use in our dishes has a scientific name Cinnamomum tamala and is grown mainly in India, Bhutan, Nepal and Myanmar.
However, in addition to being one of the most loved and famous spice, there are many facets of the humble and simple looking leaf and it is worth more than meets the eye.
Let us know some of the characteristics of bay leaf as to why it is the gem of a spice-
Lends Heavenly Flavour To Any Cuisine
Pulao , biryani, fried rice- the list of exciting rich dishes of the Indian sub-continent loses its value of the level of deliciousness if we do not make a mention of the bay leaf. Moreover, the prime and famous dessert of the country i.e. Payesh , Kheer or Payasam also fails to satiate our taste buds without the presence of the bay leaf. No doubt, the dry fruits and the other array of spices that is mixed lovingly into the salty and sweet rice based dishes of Indian cuisine also elevates its lovely taste but the humble bay leaf’s flavour has the capacity of distinctly lending a special flavour all on its own. A single bay leaf can do wonders for any sort of meal. If a dish becomes too much tangy or salty or sweet, the presence of a bay leaf there can stabilize its distinct overpowering taste and make it acceptable to the human tongue. Thus it can be said that bay leaf is a remedial tool which can be used to enhance the taste of a dish and also make bad dishes taste good.
Soothes With Its Pleasant Aroma
The aromatic characteristic of a bay leaf is more than that of its flavour. With a smell that strongly resembles to that of cinnamon and clove, the bay leaf has the ability to please an individual with its mildly overpowering aroma. Although the aroma of a bay leaf can reach some distance from a place, it cannot distract any individual. When you add a bay leaf at the time of cooking a dish, its aroma begins to release with the presence of heat and as soon as you start mixing the leaf along with the other ingredients of the dish with your cooking spoons, the aroma starts distinctly spreading more to the nearby areas. Adding a bay leaf will automatically indicate your neighbor that you are cooking something exciting. If you bring a dish containing a bay leaf to the dining table, the people will first notice its aroma and will surely become curious and eager to eat it. Therefore, it can be said that the aroma of a bay leaf can entice the senses of any individual. The fragrance of a large number of Indian dishes is lent by bay leaves. Moreover, the strong aromatic characteristic of a bay leaf also has the capacity of overcoming the scented quotient of other spices in a dish. So a bay leaf occupies a dominant position as the spice which provides unique scent to Indian dishes.
Bay leaf can act as a cure for a number of problems of the human body. Moreover, the burnt form of the bay leaf also is highly beneficial. You will be surprised to know that inhaling the smoke of a bay leaf also have large advantages. Bay leaves are great reliever of stress and anxiety, a digestive tonic, possess anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, manage diabetes, treat respiratory conditions and protect the heart and even is a great hair care product. Bay leaves contain unique enzymes that help to facilitate digestion and nutrient intake. The chemicals caffeic acid and rutin which are present in bay leaves helps in enhancing the health of the heart. In order to strengthen the hair follicles, you should put bay leaves in water for some time and use it as a conditioner after shampooing. The chemical linalool which is emitted after burning a bay leaf is a great stress reliever as it reduces anxiety levels of persons.The smoke also has the ability to calm the human body and mind. Burnt bay leaves also emit chemical eugenol which has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.Eugenol can reduce inflammation in the body, especially within the areas of joints. It can also boost our immune system. Apart from calming the body, bay leaf smoke can also act as an energy booster as it comprises of chemicals such as pinene, cineol, and elemicin which can help a person to fight off feelings of tiredness.It can also help treat clogged, backed up respiratory passages and lungs.
Have Multiple Uses
Bay leaf essential oil is used in aromatherapy massages as it has a capability of relieving stress levels of a person which helps them in the process of relaxation of the mind and body. In days of yore, bay leaf was used as incense and was widely burnt in homes and places of worship. Many traditional homes also burn bay leaves even today because it gives a good fragrance and dispels away every kind of bad odour. Moreover, bay leaf smoke is also beneficial for the human body. You can burn bay leaves to create to create a suitable environment for practising meditation as the smoke will calm down your senses and also making the venue appropriate for concentration by dispelling away negative elements. Some wardrobe and room fresheners also contain bay leaf extract as one of its components.
With so many mind boggling characteristics, the bay leaf is still one of the most underrated spices and its value should not be taken for granted.