For years, one of us (Tom) was under the mistaken impression that the leaf from the very common Bay Leaf Tree in the SGM was the same as the Bay Leaf used for cooking. Worse, Tom undoubtedly often repeated that mistaken information to hiking companions. After all, the leaves are identical in appearance, and when rubbed give off the same odor.
However, much to Tom's surprise, an article in the San Diego Union Tribune (Food Section, 2/7/99) explains clearly that the bay leaf used in cooking is the leaf of Laurus nobilis from the Mediterranean, and that domestic bay leaves are from Umbellularia californica, and "are to be avoided"! When used in cooking, the domestic bay leaves give a "resinous, rather oily flavor to the dish" instead of adding the expected sweet flavor. See the article in the Union-Tribune Archives (search for Umbellularia) for a very complete explanation of the differences.
Tom then asked Jane about whether the horehound plant has anything to do with the candy. She replied:You can use this horehound to make candy, but it doesn't taste very good. It is difficult to condense it enough to get any flavor other than bitter. I've tried it. The commercial product probably uses oils.
Realizing that further questions were probably inevitable, Jane headed Tom off at the pass by providing this table:
Names of Culinary Plants Compared to Native or Naturalized(*) Plants in SGM
Common Name Culinary Plant Native or Naturalized(*) Plant in SGM Same Grains, Seeds Buckwheat Pagopyrum spp. Eriogonum fasciculatum no Oats Avena sativa Avena fatua* no Fennel,
sometimes called anise
Foeniculum vulgare Foeniculum vulgare* yes Mustard Brassica nigra Brassica nigra* yes Fruits, Nuts Blackberry Rubus spp. Himalayan* Rubus procerus
California Rubus ursinus
yes Chokecherry Prunus virginiana var. demissa Prunus virginiana var. demissa yes Currant Ribes spp. golden currant Ribes aureum
chaparral currant Ribes malvaceum
no Elderberry Sambucus caerulea Sambucus caerulea yes Gooseberry Ribes spp. Ribes speciosum no Juniper Juniperus spp. Juniperus spp. yes Pinyon pine Pinus monophylla Pinus monophylla yes Prickly pear, tuna Opuntia spp. Opuntia spp. yes Rose Rosa sp. Rosa sp. yes Serviceberry, juneberry Amelanchier sp. Amelanchier sp. yes Thimbleberry Rubus parviflorus Rubus parviflorus yes Walnut Juglans regia Juglans californica no Leaves Bay leaf Laurus nobilis Umbellularia californica no Cactus, nopales Opuntia spp. Opuntia spp. yes Horehound Marrubium vulgare Marrubium vulgare* yes Mustard Brassica campestris Brassica campestris* yes Sage Salvia officinalis California sagebrush Artemesia californica
White sage Salvia apiana
Black sage Salvia mellifera
no Tarragon Artemisia dracunculus Artemisia dracunculus; although French tarragon,
the culinary herb, is the same species,
it is a cultivated plant grown from cuttings and
does not set seeds nor grow in the wild;
taste the leaves to tell the difference
no Watercress Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum Rorippa nasturtium-aquaticum; however,
since the water in which it grows is generally
contaminated by giardia or cryptosporidium,
it is not a good idea to eat ones from the wild
Copyright © 1999-2005 by Jane Strong and Tom Chester.
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Updated 14 September 2005.