Before I poison my family.  I mean, I would not do that on purpose, but I really do need some help.

You see, I’m making Geraldine Fletcher’s old-fashioned, southern style, cornbread dressing from scratch, which starts with the boiling of the chicken.  Seems I recall my mom always threw a few bay leaves in the water, right?

Well, I don’t have any, but there is a tall tree just outside the back porch that looks like a bay tree whose leaves smell like bay when crinkled in my fingers.  So, I ventured out into the tall weeds, jumped up and pulled off a small branch of the leaves.

I brought the branch inside and looked closely at the leaves, and looked in my Louisiana plants books but did not find a bay tree listed.  So I did a Google search.  I was feeling rather confidant that I could throw a few of these into the pot, until I read the sentence about a couple of poisonous laurel trees that could be mistaken for bay.

While this tree does not resemble the Google images of the laurel trees, I hate to poison my family over something that I’m only going to take out of the broth and discard anyway.

But I just know that one of my down-to-earth readers who has one of these trees is going to tell me that from here on out, I will have an endless supply of bay leaves.

At which time, I will climb the ladder, harvest more stems and hang them in my attic to dry, sort of like Belizaire the Cajun did with herbs in his kitchen.  (I love Belizaire the Cajun, but that’s a secret, so don’t tell.)

Meanwhile, take a gander at this closeup and tell me whether or not these are bay leaves.  I guess I need to do some more homework before there will be a definitive answer.

And if you’re wondering why I’m cooking so early, it is because Dotter is hosting an early Thanksgiving Dinner at her house Friday night while both her brothers are  off the boats–they will be back on the boats on turkey day.  I’m in charge of the cornbread dressing and the sweet potato casserole.

When will you start cooking for next week’s feast?




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  1. BW, take a photo of the tree and pick some of the leaves and take them to your local agriculture agent. They should be able to help you with the identity of what you have. Your family is too precious to take a chance.

  2. I haven’t decided where we are eating yet or if I am cooking, nothing like last minute decisions. Bryce may go back to Western Oklahoma deer hunting. Did you see the picture of his deer? I will make Oyster dressing no matter where I go, even if I have to eat it at home by myself.

      1. The picture is on my FB but I will text you one too. I would gladly trade out, the creatures carcass was 140 plus at the butchers! He also got a turkey and a few ducks that day too. My freezer will run over. Not a bad problem to have though, is it?

        1. I’ll trade Fruit Cake for venison and shrimp! LOL BTW BW, I can testify that a Fruit Cake frozen for a year, taste just as good as freshly baked. Don’t get upset, I’ll put another one in the freezer with your name on it in the next few weeks.

          1. I love fruitcake. I have to be one of the few people left on the planet that does but I adore a good fruitcake. I would gladly trade venison for fruitcake.

  3. There’s a cherry laurel that’s almost identical – it’s in the same family as mountain laurel, and both are poisonous.

    Just as was said above – take a cutting to your ag agent to be sure. There are so many look-alikes I wouldn’t necessarily trust even a garden store.

    1. I read about those two in Wiki and that is what made me take pause. Glad I did because I have just thought all these years that it was a bay tree. Something said “you better do some research first”, and amazingly, I listened!

  4. My trees look just like yours and I have safely used the leaves for years. I never heard of the poison Laurel trees or I might have never made use of mine.

  5. You know, I used to have a few of those trees too and actually did pick the leaves and dry them out and I did use them in cooking. The leaves I had were smaller though so I don’t know if they were the same exact tree.

  6. Hey Choup send a few leaves to this woman. I get mine fresh at the store. Last 2 packs developed black spots though.

    Bay leaves veins branch out before edges those are too skinny as well.

    Blu has some of best venison in freezer he ever ate. Made stew out of chops yesterday. Buddy out trying for this ones big sister so more meat coming.

  7. That is one herb/spice I never use. I can’t stand bay leaves. But, if your tree is one, you have a great asset to your cooking if you like it. Be sure to check the bark type also. Sometimes, that is the only thing that looks different from one tree to another.

  8. Definitely do the “sample to Ag” thing. I think actual bay laurel has smaller leaves but it may be a perfectly safe flowering bay tree like I had in my yard in FL. Has it ever bloomed- flowering bay has white flowers. happy Thanksgiving boo. eat way to much and enjoy your family!!

  9. I have NO idea if it’s a Bay. I get mine dried and packaged from the grocery store. Now, If you have a Sassafras tree, let me know! I’ll harvest some leaves for File’ and the bark for hot tea. I

    1. Steffi, I haven’t had fresh sassafras in years!! We always used the roots to brew rootbeer and the leaves as a thickening in soup. We didn’t know anything about file’ back then.

  10. Curious to see how this goes. I have a tree just like this, and I was wondering if it was a bay tree, also. The leaves are shiny on mine, and they’re big leaves. I actually thought when the tree was small that it might be a magnolia. Its not.
    Mountain laurel is poisionous, but doesn’t get very big… not sure if it grows around here. The tree I’m talking about is pretty good size. And its not a ‘shrub’ but a tree.
    I know my coonhound loves this tree. He walks through the leaves, and rubs them all over him.

      1. I would love to know what kind of tree this is, since I think you and I have the same tree.
        Mine stays green year-around….

  11. Nope nope nope definitely not bay. Bay leaves have alternately spaced veins these come out of common point like a ladder.

    Is it evergreen? that be key too.

    1. Okay, Blu, I can tell you are getting upset with us. I accepted that you said it is not a bay tree and I will not take everyone else’s advice and take a branch to my Ag. Agent. Thank you very, very much. Guess I’ll just go buy some and store in airtight container in frig. like I used to do. And how in the world you saw all that about veins and leaves in that photo is beyond me.

  12. Not upset at all but if I go down to Loozy it ain’t gonna be to a funereal unless it is mine. I just googled ‘bay laurel’ and slapped it up next to your pix. I got some horticultural friends but I did not bug them with this yet.

  13. Ps I don’t think a few leaves plus or minus will be toxic enough to kill you. Maybe weaken you cause a lot of chumming but death would be easy way out.

  14. postus super scriptie part du ontu dothers.

    I looked up dat movie at Floyd’s Music Store in Ville Platt I may order it up. All things Floyd….

  15. Alright relax…

    Blu making cajun cannellini beans (white kidney beans) with trinity plus 3 carrots garlic parsley and tasso seasoned with the usual suspects and rosemary and bay leaf….