Laurus Nobilis: the Prince of Olympus in the backyard
Laurus nobilis is the botanical name of the European species of laurel. The leaves, in ancient Greece, were chewed by the priestesses of the temple of Delphi and its leaves were burned as incense for the prince of gods: Apollo. The Lauro has an ancient and impressive history: the emperor Augustus had two laurels planted on the sides of the front door. The Greek word for Lauro is Daphne. Everyone will remember the myth of the girl pursued by Apollo and transformed into a laurel tree. In Greece leaves of Lauro were scattered on the floor of the temples to ward off demons and thunderstorms. Roman heroes were crowned with laurel wreaths and from there derives the saying: "rest on our laurels". This aromatic is widespread throughout the Mediterranean area: in nature it is able to compose large spontaneous forests. This evergreen tree can reach 10-12 meters in height, has a wide spread throughout Italy with a particular concentration in the central-southern regions. The laurel frequently develops in composite stumps: large shrubs between three and six meters high.
Laurus nobilis: identity card
The Laurus is a plant widespread in Italy in all regions, especially in the central south: it has a stem characterized by dark bark and a rich branching in the lower part. This particularity often gives the laurel a rounded or elongated shape. The evergreen foliage is oval in shape: very aromatic, dark green and rather coriaceous. These are dioecious plants (there are, ie, male and female specimens): the flowers are small located near the leaf axil on the wood of the previous year. It should be noted that, in the female specimens, the flowers are followed by the fruits: small black berries, once they have reached full maturity. It is easy to cultivate the laurel plant in the garden or in a pot: they are very rustic plants. Together with Salvia and Rosemary they will quickly become essential aromas for home cooking.
Il Lauro: instructions for use
The laurel has an excellent adaptability to the environment, even if it prefers sunny and sheltered areas during the cold winter months. The soil should always be well drained. It is a plant that needs a minimum dose of attention: fertilizer and water always in a measured way. The greatest care must be placed in the growth and development phase: in ideal conditions the laurel tends, in fact, to grow very rapidly. In the case of cultivation in pots, a sufficiently high and deep container will be required. To guarantee drainage, a bottom of about ten centimeters composed of coarse material will be sufficient: volcanic lapillus, expanded clay or pebbles. In this case the pruning must be rather severe each year, otherwise frequent repotting will be necessary, precisely because of the luxuriant growth. Reproduction takes place mainly through semi-woody cutting to be taken, between August and September, especially from the lateral jets. After resting in a vase for at least a year, transplanting into the ground can take place without trauma.
Lauro plant: The laurel plant, from the garden to the table
It is possible to harvest the leaves at any time of the year, while the berries, on the other hand, will be harvested in the autumn anticipating the first winter frosts. The optimal conservation is the first step for a correct use in the kitchen of this wonderful aromatic plant. Both the berries and the leaves are very well preserved: a shaded and airy place is ideal for drying berries, while the leaves can be kept for a good period in a tightly closed glass jar. The laurel leaves are particularly aromatic thanks to the essential oil contained in them: it is sufficient to break some of them to release immediately the characteristic grassy and balsamic scent. The laurus leaves can be used in a large number of recipes: fundamental for marinating meat, characteristic in stews and boiled meats. Laurel is also present in many preparations based on legumes and chestnuts or it is traditionally used for grilling fish.