Last week I got an email from BajaBabe asking me to send her some Bay Laurel Leaves-'They cost a fortune in the bottle here' she wrote.
It just happened that I was heading over to the SturgeUrge Compound anyway, so when I got there I told him I was going to snip a bough or two to send north. "Not to worry" says Urge, "I've got some I cut today, just a second. I'll grab some you can have" and out the door he went.
The SturgeUrge Compound sits on about an acre near the bottom of a northeast facing wooded canyon. A half dozen similar lots up the canyon all share the private road, and every lot has the mixed redwood, California bay laurel, and coast live oaks. The little enclave disfavors suntanning, but it's definitely an oasis when the mercury reaches into the 80s. The California Bay Laurels are a culinary extra...everywhere you look it's like a pantry...Bay Leaf City.
Urge came through the front door and thrust two huge branches of bay leaves at me and we sat down in the front room and chewed the fat for a beer or so. I grabbed the branches and said "Thanks and goodnight, I'll drop you a DVD of our day on the Bay with the USS Iowa next time I'm in the neighborhood". Out to the car I strode, I tossed the bay leaf branches in the back seat, and hit the road.
A day or two later, I grabbed the branches from the car and gazed on them for the first time in bona fide daylight. The leaves looked like they had Black Spot Rose Disease, like I battled in the summer of 2010 in the Ancestral Diggins. Into the green waste container they went. I phoned SturgeUrge this afternoon and asked about the spots. I remember that Urge lost an oak tree over his driveway a some years ago to the then newly discovered Sudden Oak Death Syndrome. I quizzed him about Sudden Oak Death Syndrome, and if the Bay Laurel was susceptible to the pathogen. Urge said the Bay trees are a carrier species..."Looks like Rose Black Spot Fungus" I replied. Urge said between his oak and the neighbors, they'd lost at least a half dozen Coastal Live Oaks in their little canyon hideaway in the last few years. We finished up by making some plans to get a fishing trip in this weekend...if the winds allow it...stay tuned...
This afternoon I had to go to the grocery store for a few staples...milk, OJ, grapefruit juice and another bunch of watercress. On my way to the store, I made a detour through Canyon, CA in search of bay leaves and to find an old feral Damson Plum tree that I remember from three plus decades ago. Those now wild plums were like candy, and they made incredible preserves.
The plum tree is MIA, the sunny wide spot at the canyon bottom didn't hold it's sweet surprise anymore. I pulled into several turnouts with bay trees...every one displayed the telltale spots. I thought better of sending any probably infected but asymptomatic bay leaves to BajaBabe's locale.
Back at the beginning of the Sudden Oak Death Syndrome epidemic, BajaBabe herself spent a summer on the front lines of the SODS war with the US Forest Service doing an inventory from south to north in California looking for SODS infected plots of forest. To hear her tell it, she earned every penny that summer! Bushwacking is the word that comes to mind...
I'm sure I can get a glassine envelope full of bay leaves next time I'm in a market with a Mexican Spice Section, for 99 cents.
That's all this afternoon...I've gotta get in a cold shower before the Giants game.
After Dinner Update:
OMG the Bitten Word's Beet Rhubarb and Orange Salad rocks when you remember the Feta Cheese! ★★★★★