Why are bay leaves so expensive? This is a common question for most who utilize bay leaves for various purposes. Bay leaves are a popular ingredient used in several cooked spices.
They’re ideal for flavoring your food with a particular taste, and you can usually find them in grocery stores and health food stores. Although many products offer you similar flavors, many would agree that bay leaves are the most expensive amongst them.
This article will provide several reasons why bay leaves are so expensive. We’ll also explore the best way to store your bay leaves and what they taste like. On that note, let’s take a look.
What are Bay Leaves?
Bay leaves are derived from the bay laurel plant, native to the Mediterranean region. This is usually an evergreen shrub that grows in a warm climate but has a slower growth process than other plants. Bay leaves are grown mostly for ornamental use.
People dry them and then use them in cooking. Additionally, bay leaves are thick and leathery and have a pointy end. Today, several recipes call for dried bay leaves more than the fresh option because they have a slightly stronger scent.
In the past, the Romans and Greeks made crowns using bay leaves. These crowns were specifically for victorious warriors after a won battle. However, this plant has more value in the kitchen today than as a fashion accessory. Although this plant is originally from the Mediterranean region, there are varieties grown in various parts today. You can usually tell the different varieties by their varying flavor.
There are six varieties of bay leaves, but only two are commonly used. The Mediterranean bay leaves are also known as the Turkish bay leaves. They offer a mild flavor compared to the other common option; Californian bay leaves.
This option provides a stronger flavor than the Mediterranean leaves. They’re the common option for curries, ice cream, stews, and sauces. Beyond these common options, we have the West Indian, Mexican, Indian, and Indonesian bay leaves.
You can usually find dry bay leaves in the herb section of the grocery store or the produce aisle if you prefer fresh options. The aroma is similar to thyme and oregano because they’re all herbal and floral.
However, they’re far more expensive than oregano and thyme. This article seeks to answer the question ‘why are bay leaves so expensive?’
What do Bay Leaves Taste like?
A bay leaf’s taste usually depends on the variety you’re utilizing. The most common variety is the Mediterranean bay leave; it comes in an oval shape and a bright green color.
The Californian leaf has a stronger flavor similar to eucalyptus, while the Mexican bay leaf offers the user a subtle flavor. On the other hand, the Indian bay leaf has hints of cinnamon which makes it challenging to use as an alternative to Californian or Mediterranean bay leaves.
Most people believe that bay leaves are quite tasteless because of the tree leaves they resemble. People expect a punchy flavor similar to pepper from bay leaves. On the contrary, this leaf adds a subtle flavor to your meal. It acts like a supporting flavor that helps other herbs shine in a meal.
Why are Bay Leaves so Expensive?
Now that you know what bay leaves are and what they taste like, you might have noticed the steep prices attached to them, and you’re wondering why they’re so expensive compared to other herbs. This section will walk you through ten reasons why; let’s begin.
1. Short Shelf Life
One of the reasons bay leaves are so expensive is because they have a short shelf life. A bay leaf could lose its flavor in just three months. This is why they’re more expensive compared to herbs that stay longer.
2. They’re Quite Precious
Another common reason bay leaves are so expensive is that most people believe they’re the most precious herb available. Because bay leaves come from a single leaf and are used in multiple recipes today, they have a higher value.
Bay leaves soup, and dry bay leaves are also quite different in the taste they offer you. Therefore, there’ll also be differences in their prices.
3. Difficult to Grow
Another answer to the question ‘why are bay leaves so expensive?’ is because of the difficulty in growing them. Therefore, Bay leaves have specific climate requirements and are difficult to grow in various parts of the world.
This means that most countries have to import these leaves from another country to meet consumer demands. This process usually drives up the price of bay leaves.
4. They’re Relatively New
Compared to other herbs that have been around for many centuries, people discovered bay leaves less than a century ago. Farmers didn’t grow them before them, and we didn’t use them in many products. Therefore, their relatively new status compared to other available herbs makes them quite expensive.
5. They’re Not Famous in the Western World
Another answer to the question ‘why are bay leaves so expensive?’ is because they’re not as popular as other herbs in the western world. They’re relatively unknown to people in Europe and North America.
This means that not many people have utilized them in their meals and find them more fascinating when used than the less expensive substitute.
6. The Value Doesn’t Depend on the Substitutes
Many products come from bay leaves but are more affordable than the bay leaves themselves. This is because the value of the bay leaf doesn’t depend on these products.
However, these products do not offer the original taste of the bay leaves and are not a common choice for making different cuisines worldwide.
How to Store Bay Leaves
Now that you know the answers to the question ‘why are bay leaves so expensive?’ you’re probably wondering the best way to store them to prolong their shelf life. It is noteworthy that dried bay leaves usually offer a higher shelf line than that fresh bay leaves.
You can store the dried leaves in an airtight bag and store them in the freezer to maintain the flavor for a long time. However, the flavor of the bay leaf is quite subtle and can easily be lost after some months. Therefore, it’s best to purchase a new jar of bay leaves every few months.
Because of the shorter shelf life, bay leaves are far more expensive, and it is best to store them properly if you want to splurge. When kept in an airtight bag and stored in the freezer, fresh bay leaves can last two weeks. The refrigerator helps to preserve their flavor and potency a little bit longer.
There you have it, above are answers to the common question ‘why are bay leaves so expensive. Knowing why they’re so expensive, you can preserve and prolong their shelf life by following the abovementioned instructions.
We also provided insight into their taste to help you determine the various varieties when you come across them. I hope this article answered your question; please drop questions if you have any in the comment section below.