The Laurus nobilis it is, in common parlance, the laurel plant, a very common plant also in our parts as in all those areas where we find a temperate climate, whether they are hill or plain areas. Even if it grows spontaneously in all Mediterranean countries, we find it planted and cultivated also in gardens and parks as an ornamental and aromatic plant.
Laurus nobilis: characteristics
The Laurus nobilis belongs to the genus Laurus and to Lauraceae family, plants that have arrived in the Mediterranean area ofAsia Minor, several centuries ago, if not millennia. The name "nobilis" clearly derives from "noble", even if in reality we are talking about a simple and very common plant, perennial and with a dignified shrub habit. We can find it as a bush or as a tree, it depends on the climate but also on who is growing it, in some cases it even reaches heights of over ten meters.
It has a smooth trunk with blackish bark from which thin and very dense branches start that support the leaves, attached with very short ones. The leaves, as many know, are decidedly leathery and dark green, have a wavy edge, above they are shiny while below they are opaque and of a more tenuous green color. There are many resinous glands on their surface and it is from them that the characteristic aroma spreads. The flowers of the Laurus nobilis they are not particularly beautiful, they are small and gathered in inflorescences that appear in early spring.
Being a dioecious plant, Laurus has flowers only male flowers or only female flowers, the fruit is nothing more than a bluish berry, no larger than a simple olive and which contains only one seed but is very aromatic and ripens in October.
Both in the leaves and in the berries, there are many essential oils including geraniol, cineol, eugenol, terpineol, phellandrene, eucalyptol, pinene, etc.
Laurus nobilis: cultivation
It is not difficult to get a plant of Laurus nobilis because it is a very rustic plant. It does well in the sun and also in the shade, both in pots and in open fields and, if desired, even in the apartment if you go along with some precautions.
For example, there are temperatures to keep in mind, the optimal ones are the temperatures from Mediterranean climate, never below zero, except for short periods of time. Let's not subject it to strong air currents and do not overdo it with watering, even in spring and summer, the important thing is that the soil does not remain dry. In autumn and winter, irrigation is even suspended until temperatures rise above 7 ° C.
In case the Laurus nobilis is grown in pot, it is necessary to repot every two years because it has a very fast growth rate. This operation is carried out in spring, using a good fertile and soft soil that does not favor the formation of water stagnations. From early spring to late summer, it is necessary to fertilize using a liquid product every two weeks, preferably with a high nitrogen content which favors the development of its green and aromatic parts. If we want to have a beautiful plant, we must prune it every year towards the end of winter, in spring it will begin to bloom and in autumn the fruits will ripen.
The Nobilis it is the most used species as an aromatic and decorative plant, among all those of genus Laurus. We are talking about the laurel that we all use in the kitchen, so to speak, that is, a tree, or a shrub, with intense green fragrant leaves with yellow flowers that develop in bunches and turn into black berries. Among the varieties that turned around are the 'Angustifolia' with narrow and long leaves and the 'Aurea' with leaves tending to golden yellow.
Laurel has very interesting aromatic properties, due to the presence of essential oils which in the leaves have concentrations ranging from 1 to 3% while in the berries they reach up to 10%.
Laurus nobilis in the kitchen
In the culinary traditions of the whole world it can happen that we find laurel, even and especially in the Italian ones. There are many recipes in which the then is a important aromatic ingredient but we also find it at the base of a liqueur called laurin, produced with its berries typically in Emilia Romagna.
Laurus nobilis: collection
All year round we can collect the leaves of the then but it is better to do it in July and August when there is a greater concentration of aromatic essences. The fruits are harvested in the fall, because that's when they ripen.
If we don't want to use fresh leaves, we can dry them by placing them in the shade, in an airy place, so we can keep them for an entire year. The berries can also be dried but in the oven, keeping it at a low temperature, then they should be placed in glass jars.
Laurus and other Lauraceae
In the same family of Laurus nobilis there are other interesting plants, some even with well-known aromatic properties. Cinnamomum cassia la Cinnamon from China, from Cinnamomum zeylanicum instead we get the cinnamon queen, then there is the Persea gratissima with fruits that taste of pistachio and the officinal Sassafras, widely used in perfumery for its aromatic wood.
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