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.
|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.|