Berries, bay leaves, coffee beans, mushrooms, and artichokes, sounds like items on your grocery list that you plan to get at Safeway, right? Wrong! These items can all be found in your backyard that is if your backyard happens to be in the fields of Lafayette and Moraga. When I heard that we were going to a park in Lafayette, I had no idea how this would be related to food. Feral Kevin, our tour guide, was enthusiastic and ready to share his knowledge about plants and food with us. While walking along the trail of the Lafayette Community Center, I was eager to learn; however, I didn’t know what was going to be shown to us. We started in the parking lot, learning a bit of history from Kevin about the native plants in Moraga. The native plant life is the plants that were present before the Europeans came here.
As we started along the trail, Kevin quickly pointed out the California Bay Laurel. This tree is the most common, non-mountainous tree in the area. The leaves from this tree are about three times stronger in smell and flavor than the bay leaves we buy at the grocery stores, which comes from Europe. Another fascinating fact about the bay tree is that the leaves are antimicrobial, which means that if stuck in the wilderness, one can break and crumble the leaves, then rub all over their hands to clean them. Furthermore, the bay tree is related to avocados. As Kevin describes the tree’s fruit, he says that the bay tree produces what looks like baby avocados. The nut, or seed, inside the fruit can be used as well. Our tour guide described how he cut the fruit in half to remove the seed. He then explained that the seed needs to be roasted to a dark chocolaty, brown or similar to coffee beans. The seeds can be used to create one’s own coffee in a fresh coffee press.
The California Bay Laurel is one of the most versatile trees, I have ever learned about. It can be used for medicinal purposes or food.