One of the most widely used herbs in North American and European cooking, bay leaves, also called 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 belong to the Lauraceae family, which also includes cinnamon and sassafras. Bay leaves are available in dried whole leaf form.
Bay leaves are a fundamental flavor in European cooking, lending a pleasing and distinctive perfume to the air as they cook. They are a basic component in a bouquet garni, a sachet usually comprised of bay leaves, thyme and parsley, that is used to flavor soups, stews, and chowders. In Britain, bay leaves are sometimes used to flavor custard and pudding. They are a must-have in tomato sauce and any kind of robust stew.
Bay leaves are native to the Mediterranean, more specifically to Asia Minor, now known as Turkey. Today the majority of fine bay leaves come from wild trees in Turkey that grow close to the coastline of the Aegean and Black Sea.
BELIEVE IT…OR NOT
Achieve a delicious kitchen victory and you could well earn a crown of bay leaves from friends and family! Champions of the Olympic Games in ancient Greece wore garlands of Bay Leaves. Moreover the word “baccalaureate,” alludes to the bay wreathes worn by poets and scholars when they received academic honors in ancient Greece.
Lemon Bay Tortellini with Spinach and Wild Mushrooms
Hearty Beef Stew with Roasted Winter Vegetables