Bay leaf, also known as laurel leaf is an evergreen shrub, whose dried leaves are used spices in various cuisines. It can also be found as a tree, although this is very rare. The upper surface of a bay leaf is shiny and olive green in colour, whereas the lower surface of the leaf is dull and has a colour that ranges from olive to brown, and has a highly visible rib and veins. When the bay leaves are crushed, it creates an aromatic, pleasant fragrance with a bitter taste. Bay leaf has its origins in the Mediterranean. Today, it can often be found in scrubland woods in California and different parts of Europe. It is also heavily cultivated in various Arabian countries.
Used to add flavour in stews, soups, fish, meat, sauces and even in confectionaries, bay leaf can either be used whole or as ground dried pieces. Both the leaves and fruits of the plant have extremely aromatic fragrances, and they possess stimulant properties as well. The leaves contain an essential oil, which is also often used as a food flavouring agent. Many cultures across the globe use it for a wide range of medicinal purposes as well. The major functional properties of bay leaves are hypoglycaemic, anti-ulcerogenic, anti-fungal and anti-microbial.