Bay leaf (plural bay leaves) refers to the aromatic leaves of several plants used in cooking. These include:
  • Bay laurel (Laurus nobilis, Lauraceae). Fresh or dried bay leaves are used in cooking for their distinctive flavor and fragrance. The leaves should be removed from the cooked food before eating (see Safety section below). The leaves are often used to flavor soups, stews, braises and pâtés in Mediterranean cuisine and beans in Brazilian cuisine. The fresh leaves are very mild and do not develop their full flavor until several weeks after picking and drying.
  • California bay leaf – the leaf of the California bay tree (Umbellularia californica, Lauraceae), also known as California laurel, Oregon myrtle, and pepperwood, is similar to the Mediterranean bay laurel, but has a stronger flavor.
  • Indian bay leaf or malabathrum (Cinnamomum tamala, Lauraceae) is somewhat similar in appearance to the leaves of bay laurel, but is culinarily quite different, having a fragrance and taste similar to cinnamon (cassia) bark, but milder.
  • Indonesian bay leaf or Indonesian laurel (salam leaf, Syzygium polyanthum, Myrtaceae) is not commonly found outside of Indonesia; this herb is applied to meat and, less often vegetables.
  • West Indian bay leaf, the leaf of the West Indian bay tree (Pimenta racemosa, Myrtaceae), used culinarily and to produce the cologne called bay rum.
  • Mexican bay leaf (Litsea glaucescens, Lauraceae).
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