Foraging for Flavors

eucalyptusI went for a walk on the hill behind my house hoping to find a rogue fruit tree my eye had previously missed. Instead I found Eucalyptus and California Bay Laurel trees galore. I grabbed two fistfuls of leaves and set off to make chocolates.

Both types of leaves are incredibly fragrant--once you break them and release their oils it's hard to escape their heady aroma. I minced them up and poured organic agave nectar over them to make two infusions. With lavender or rosemary, I have to let the mixture steep overnight to capture the essence of the herbs in the agave. With eucalyptus and bay, the agave was powerfully flavorful within minutes.

CA Bay Leaf image from Chow.com
Halfway through chocolate-making I began to get an unusual headache; my sinuses ached sharply and all I could smell was bay leaf. That prompted an emergency google session--are these leaves actually safe to eat?!?  

Turns out they are...in moderation. Bay Leaf is a common culinary herb but its volatile oils can cause headaches when inhaled in excess. Eucalyptus leaf is safe and medicinal in small quantities, but the concentrated essential oil (which I did not use) can be toxic. Children and people with inflamed kidneys should avoid eucalyptus, and for that reason I decided to take the eucalyptus truffles off the shelf. We can't be interviewing every customer about the state of his or her kidneys, and I'd rather be safe than sorry.

It's a bit of a shame, as the finished truffles taste like a walk in the California woods (while eating chocolate, of course). First you get the dark chocolate and smooth sweetness of the agave, then comes a burst of herbal flavor followed by more pure chocolatiness. The bay truffles are still readily available, but you'll have ask at the counter if you want to try the eucalyptus.

1 comment:

  1. I stopped into the shop on Sunday and tried one of the eucalyptus chocolates. It DID taste exactly like a walk in the groves! I don't know if I was ready for that. :) But it was fun to try.

    Loving our recent box -- I'll write up a review when I'm done with all the filled chocolates, which I suspect will be quite soon. ;b The bars are already gone!