Bay leaves are fragrant leaves from the laurel tree used as a herb in cooking. Bay leaves are available fresh, dried and ground into a powder. The leaves are added to slow-cooked recipes such as soups, sauces, and stews, and are removed before serving the dish. They have a floral and herbal scent reminiscent of oregano and thyme and are used more often than any other herb.
Bay leaves have a long history, originating as an ornamental symbol of honour and success, and worn by Roman and Greek emperors, as well as Olympians, scholars, heroes, and poets. Because of this, two terms were created: baccalaureate, which is the reward for earning a bachelor's degree, meaning "berries of laurel," and poet laureate, an honour given by a government to someone to compose poems for special events.
What does it taste like?
Since Bay leaves aren't eaten, they are more about what flavour they bring to a recipe and that is up for much debate. Many cooks believe that bay leaves don't contribute any taste at all while others believe that the herb adds a subtle depth of flavour. So, while Bay leaves do not add overwhelming and distinct flavours to any dish, they can be thought of as a "supporting actor". They help coax out other flavours and spices in whatever dish you are making.
Fresh vs. Dried
Fresh bay leaves are shiny green on top with a paler green on the underside. As the leaves dry, the colour becomes uniform and muted. The flavour also intensifies. Fresh bay leaves are often much more expensive and do not last as long as dried bay leaves.
Benefits of Bay leaf
Bay leaf was prized highly by the Greeks and the Romans, who believed that the herb symbolizes wisdom, peace, and protection.
The spice contains various important plant-derived chemical compounds, minerals, and vitamins that are essential for optimum health.
Manganese and copper are used by the body as co-factors for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Iron is essential for red blood cell production and as a co-factor for cytochrome oxidase enzymes.
This leafy spice is an excellent source of minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, selenium, zinc, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure.