Bay leaf

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Bay leaf (plural bay leaves) refers to the aromatic leaf of the Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis, Lauraceae). Fresh or dried bay leaves are used in cooking for their distinctive flavor and fragrance. The leaves are often used to flavor soups, stews, braises and pâtés in Mediterranean cuisine. The fresh leaves are very mild and do not develop their full flavor until several weeks after picking and drying.[1]

Contents

Taxonomy

Several other plants use the term "bay leaf," but do not refer to the leaves of the Bay Laurel. They include:

  • California bay leaf
  • "Indian bay leaf" (also tej pat, tejpat, tejpata तेजपत्ता or Tamalpatra तमालपत्र or "Biryani Aaku" or "Bagaara Aaku" or "Palav Aaku" in Telugu or "Punnai ilai" in Tamil)
  • "Indonesian bay leaf" or "Indonesian laurel" (salam leaf)

History

The bay laurel tree has been cultivated since the beginning of recorded history.[3] The bay leaf originated in Asia Minor, and spread to the Mediterranean and other countries with suitable climates. Bay leaf is not grown in Northern regions, as the plants do not thrive in cold climates. Turkey is one of the main exporters of bay leaves, although they are also grown in areas of France, Belgium, Italy, Russia, Central America, North America, and India.[1] The laurel tree that the bay leaf comes from was very important both symbolically and literally in both Greece and Rome. The laurel can be found as a central component found in many ancient mythologies that glorify the tree as a symbol of honor.[4] Bay leaves are one of the most widely used culinary herbs in Europe and North America.

Taste and aroma

If eaten whole, bay leaves are pungent and have a sharp, bitter taste. As with many spices and flavorings, the fragrance of the bay leaf is more noticeable than its taste. When dried, the fragrance is herbal, slightly floral, and somewhat similar to oregano and thyme. Myrcene, which is a component of many essential oils used in perfumery, can be extracted from the bay leaf. Bay leaves also contain the essential oil eugenol.[4]

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