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Bay Leaves

Quick Overview

Is an aromatic evergreen tree or large shrub with green, glossy leaves, native to the Mediterranean region. The fresh leaves are very mild and do not develop their full flavor until several weeks after picking and drying. Fresh or dried bay leaves are used in cooking for their distinctive flavor and fragrance. The leaves should be removed from the cooked food before eating.

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Details

Also called laurel leaf or bay laurel, this aromatic herb comes from the evergreen bay laurel tree, native to the Mediterranean. The two main varieties of bay leaf are Turkish (which has 1- to 2-inch-long oval leaves) and Californian (with narrow 2- to 3-inch-long leaves). The Turkish bay leaves have a subtler flavor than do the California variety.

Additional Information

Common Uses Bay leaves can also be crushed or ground before cooking. Ground bay laurel may be substituted for whole leaves, and does not need to be removed, but it is much stronger. The leaves are often used to flavor soups, stews, braises and pâtés in Mediterranean cuisine.
History Bay leaves were used for flavoring by the ancient Greeks. Early Greeks and Romans attributed magical properties to the laurel leaf, and it has long been a symbol of honor, celebration and triumph, as in "winning your laurels." They are a fixture in the cooking of many European cuisines (particularly those of the Mediterranean), as well as in the Americas. The leaves are most often used whole (sometimes in a bouquet garni) and removed before serving. Thai cuisine employs bay leaf (Thai name bai kra wan) in a few Arab-influenced dishes, notably massaman curry.
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