Scientific name: Laurus nobilis
Flowering period: March - April
Laurel is a bush or small evergreen tree with a slow growth rate. It is found as a native species in Greece and the Mediterranean. Its leaves are alternate, lanceolate, deep green in colour. They have an aromatic scent and a slightly bitter taste. The small yellow flowers come out in March to April. The black fruit has the size and shape of a small olive. The plant thrives in calcareous and well-irrigated soils. It is usually propagated by sperms, but can also be propagated by cuttings or offshoots.
Usage & History:
The fresh laurel leaves are collected throughout the year and are used in cooking to flavour foods. The leaves and fruits contain essential oils with a characteristic aroma.
In Greece, laurel has been known since ancient times as daphne. It was a sacred tree, dedicated to the god Apollo. According to legend, Daphne was a young, beautiful nymph, daughter of the river god Pinios. She had dedicated her life to Artemis and hunting and, like the goddess, refused to marry. Apollo fell in love with her and chased her. The girl was afraid and prayed to her father to help her. He protected her by transforming her into a tree that took root on the shore of the river. Apollo cut some branches, wove and wore a wreath in memory of her beauty and his love for her.
First the Greeks and then the Romans used to wreath laurel branches on the winners of games. Thus, even today, the laurel is still associated with glory, victory and excellence. In ancient times, its healing properties were also known. It is said that Pythia of the Oracle of Delphi chewed laurel leaves before giving her oracle.