I happened upon this sleeping beauty in the Alexander Valley last Friday …
I had an amazing hike in the Alexander Valley that day on a ridge that I had never been on before. The views were astounding – peak elevation of 1500 ft allowed a view of the entire Alexander Valley to the east and north, and an amazing view of Mount St Helena cropping up out of the valley to the west.
As a bonus, this CA Bay Laurel tree along the way had HUNDREDS of recently dropped bay nuts laying below it. I’ve been hoping to find some this Fall so that I could try roasting them as a tasty treat – or, if they don’t turn out well, to give away as Christmas presents.
This effervescent tree provides a lot of food and shelter for wildlife and also historically for native people (as well as tools, such a bow staves). The leaves can be used in cooking dishes similar to its relative of culinary fame, though it is MUCH stronger (so it needs to be used in much smaller quantities). The nuts look like small avocados (and it is actually related to the avocado, I’ve read), with a green fleshy exterior covering a large nut. The nuts can be roasted after the flesh is removed and once they are allowed to dry, and the result (if done properly) is a delicious treat that looks and tastes like a mix between a coffee bean and a cocoa bean.It can actually be ground up and used to make a coffee-like beverage or a substance similar to chocolate (though I’ve not done this).
The nut contains a stimulant similar to caffeine, so it can only be consumed in small quantities. I’m looking forward to roasting these little gifts and seeing how they taste!! I love this tree.