Bay leaves, or laurel, are the dried leaves of the evergreen tree Laurus nobilis. The elliptically shaped leaves are light green in color and brittle when dried. They have a distinctively strong, aromatic, spicy flavor. Bay leaf is the standard term for this spice, but the name "laurel" is still seen frequently.
Used in soups, stews, stocks, pickles, marinades, tomato dishes and meats. Mediterranean, French, Moroccan and Turkish cuisines use bay leaves in spice blends such as bouquet garni and curry blends.
Bay leaves are native to the Mediterranean area. Turkey produces fine bay leaves. California bay leaves are far more pungent and should be used sparingly.
In Ancient Greece and Rome, bay leaves and branchlets were used as wreaths to crown their victors. Champions of the Olympic games wore garlands of bay leaves. Our word baccalaureate means "laurel berries" and signifies the successful completion of one's studies. It alludes to the bay wreaths worn by poets and scholars when they received academic honors in ancient Greece.
Flavor & Aroma
Bay leaves, often described as tea-like, are characterized by a green, woody and astringent flavor. They have a pleasant, slightly minty menthol aroma.