Bay leaves are long, oval, and taper to a slender point, averaging 7-10 centimeters in length and 3-5 centimeters in width. When fresh, these short-stemmed dark green leaves are smooth and shiny on the top surface and have lighter green coloring on the bottom. When dried, Bay leaves are leathery, matte, and turn into a deep olive green. Fresh Bay leaves are more potent than dried leaves, but in either form, they offer a woodsy, herbal and slightly floral aroma reminiscent of rosemary, pine, and citrus. On the palate, Bay leaves are mild with a bitter and sharp taste with notes of mace, cardamom, oregano, and thyme.
Bay leaves are typically used dried and are best suited for cooked applications such as stewing, boiling, and steaming. They contain the compound, estragole, which provokes a soothing element to balance heat and spice while also adding depth by enhancing the perception of acidity and savory components. Bay leaves are used in stocks, sauces, soups, and stews. They are also used to flavor seafood, meats, vegetables, chicken, massaman curry, and beans. Bay leaves pair well with aromatics such as garlic and onions, and herbs such as sage, oregano, parsley, and thyme. Bay leaves can be used whole or crushed, but if they are crushed, they should be contained in a tea infuser for convenient removal after cooking. It is not recommended to consume Bay leaves as they are stiff and can disturb the digestive tract. Dried Bay leaves will keep up to two years when stored in a cool, dry, and dark place.