The bay tree is native to the Mediterranean region and Asia Minor. The bay or laurel tree grows well in the subtropics and is cultivated today as a spice in the Far East as well as the Canary Islands, France, Belgium, Mexico, Central America and Turkey (where McCormick's bay leaves are grown).
Bay Leaves are robust, strongly aromatic with a woody, astringent flavor and a pleasant, slightly mint aroma. Indispensable to most cuisines, especially French, Mediterranean, and Indian, they are used to flavor all kinds of meat and vegetable dishes, soups and sauces. The plastic bottle is flavor sealed for freshness.
Bay Leaves or 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 have a distinctively strong, aromatic, spicy flavor. Bay Leaves is the approved term for this spice, but the name "laurel" is still seen frequently.
The tree is aromatic evergreen tree or multi-stem shrub with dark green, shiny, leathery leaves with wavy edges. The plant can reach a height of 10', but more commonly reaches 5' when grown in a container.
In northern climates Bay is not hardy and is generally grown as a container plant that is brought inside during the winter. It is best to start with a plant from a garden center since growing bay from seed is difficult and cuttings take several months to root. The plants prefer a well-drained soil in full sun to partial shade.
Bay makes an attractive ornamental plant for a patio or terrace. It is easily pruned into formal shapes or trained as a standard. The dried whole or crushed leaves are added to soups, stews, marinades, sauces, grains, and poultry, but should be removed before the dish is served, because of the sharp edges and toughness of the leaves. The leaves are also used as a background for herbal wreaths, strung together for a swag, or added to potpourri.
In Ancient Greece and Rome, bay leaves and branchlets were used as wreaths to crown their victors. Champions of the Olympic games wore garlands of bay leaves. Our word "baccalaureate" means "laurel berries" and signifies the successful completion of one's studies. It alludes to the bay wreaths worn by poets and scholars when they received academic honors in ancient Greece.