Some members of the laurel family, as well as the unrelated but visually similar mountain laureland cherry laurel have leaves that are poisonous to humans and livestock.
While these plants are not sold anywhere for culinary use, their visual similarity to bay leaves has led to the oft-repeated belief that bay leaves should be removed from food after cooking because they are poisonous. This is not true; bay leaves may be eaten without toxic effect.
Bay leaves are native to Asia Minor. They have a camphorous flavour with warm mineral-oil notes. Dry bay leaves have a more intense flavour than fresh ones. When dried the aroma is herbal, slightly floral, and somewhat similar to oregano and thyme. Myrcene, a component of many essential oils used in perfumery, can be extracted from the bay leaf. Bay leaves are used whole to infuse sauces and soups, and are then plucked out before serving due to their size and texture.
Bay leaves are a rich source of vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Also regular inclusion of bay leaves in meals promotes general health.
An essential part of a fall pantry!