What are bay leaves?

What is a bay leaf? Where did bay leaf come from, and how is it used?

What are bay leaves?

TELL ME MORE: Bay Leaf. Native to the Mediterranean, bay leaves come from bay laurel trees. Once used to make wreaths for Olympic champions, these aromatic leaves were once thought by Ancient Greeks and Romans to have magical properties. Today we know them as a flavor-enhancing herb used in soups, stews, stocks, sauces, and such.

There are two main varieties of bay leaf: Turkish and Californian; the former are more subtly flavored. Both have a unique, pungent, almost minty taste, but if overused, they can also turn foods bitter. Dried bay leaves are more common, but fresh are becoming more readily available. However, unlike most other herbs, fresh bay leaves are stronger than dried. And while not toxic to eat, they’re typically removed from dishes before serving.

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