The leaves of the Mexican Avocado (Persea americana var. drymifolia) can be used in cooking. The avocado tree is related to the Bay leaf bush, so it’s really not that far a stretch. Leaves normally remain on avocado trees for two to three years before falling off and being replaced by others. The small, new growth leaves are more flavourful than the larger, older leaves. The Avocado Leaves have a flavour like liquorice or anise. In Mexico, you can buy the dried leaves, as you would buy bay leaves. The leaves are toasted, then crushed or ground to be used as a powdered spice.It is important to note that leaves from any type of avocado tree other than Mexican (Persea americana var. drymifolia) are considered toxic (the other two main types of avocado tree being Guatemalan and West Indian.) Hass tree leaves for instance, being a Guatemalan descendant, would be off limits, as would those from Fuerte and Nabal avocado trees, and any avocado tree that had Guatemalan or West Indian in its parentage at all, even though there were also some Mexican. But then, you’d really only want to use the Mexican type, as that would be the only kind that had any flavour or aroma. When the Mexican Avocado Leaves are crushed, they give off a faint anise-y smell, contrasting with the leaves of the West Indian type of avocado, which have no such smell.
In Guatemala, natives apparently use Guatemalan leaves medicinally. You wouldn’t want to use them in cooking, as they have no food value per se, with neither the taste nor the aroma of the Mexican leaves, but you especially wouldn’t knowing the toxicity. When Guatemalan leaves have fallen off trees into fish ponds or tanks, the fish have died. Birds that have eaten them have keeled over. Beloved pet rabbits have gone to the great lettuce patch in the sky. Large doses have been fatal to goats and make horses and cows sick.
You would want to be totally certain it’s the right variety of avocado tree to be sure that the leaves are safe. Additionally, you’d want to know that the producer was planning all along to sell the leaves, and had taken that into account while spraying the tree.
Bay leaves; fennel
Whether fresh or dried but especially dried, the leaves are best lightly toasted before using, to wake up the taste. You can use them whole as you would bay leaves, or ground, as a spice.
Store in a sealed container, as you would bay leaves.