avocado leaves by gourmetsleuth.com
Avocado leaves (hojas de aguacate) are harvested from the native Mexican avocado Peresea drymifolia. The leaves are used both fresh as well as dried and impart a slightly anisey flavor.
Article by: Barbara Bowman
Avocado leaves, both fresh and dried are used in the cuisine's of the South Central part of Mexico.
Fresh leaves are used in Oaxaca as a bed for barbecuing meats as well as a flavoring for tamales.
Dried avocado leaves are most frequently available in the U.S. and can be used in soups and stews as well as bean recipes. Diana Kennedy suggests using the leaves as a substitute for hoja santa.
You can use bay leaves but they bear no resemblance to the anise-flavored avocado leaves. Rick Bayless has suggested a combination of bay leaves and cracked anise seed as a substitute for avocado leaves.
You may have seen various articles on the web that report that avocado leaves may be toxic. I believe this topic is best explained by Diana Kennedy if her new book “From My Mexican Kitchen” just published, 2003:
"Because there has been some concern about toxicity of avocado leaves among some Californian aficionados, I think it is time to set the record straight. The toxicity reports relate back to a study done in 1984 at the University of California at Davis, which showed that dairy goats suffered some toxic effects from ingesting very large amounts of avocado leaves (the toxic agent remains unknown). The crucial point, according to Dr. Arthur L. Craigmill, toxicology specialist at Davis and one of the authors of the study, is that the toxic effects were traced to the Guatemalan avocado (Persea American). When the goats were fed Mexican avocado leaves (Persea dryminfolia), a different variety, there was no problem.
The Hass avocado, the best tasting one grown in America, is a hybrid of indeterminate origin though its DNA tests positive for a Guatemalan ancestor—hence the suspicions. No one has ever tested Hass leaves for toxicity, but it seems unlikely that the small amounts used in cooking would cause any problems in any case. When in doubt, choose based on tasted and that leads you to the aromatic Mexican leaves which are now available in the U.S."
It is common to see small "galls" on the underside of the avocado leaves. They are totally edible and actually add an enhanced flavor. (Chef Reed Hearon, Cafe Marimba, Restaurant LuLu, Rose Pistola et. al.)