Bay leaves, one of the most useful European herbs, come from an evergreen tree or shrub native to the hot Mediterranean, Laurus nobilis. The medium-sized, tough, dry leaf accumulates oils in spherical glands in the leaf interior, and has a well-rounded mixture of woody, floral, eucalyptus, and clove notes. The leaves are generally dried in the shade. Laurel branches were made into fragrant crowns in the ancient world; today the leaves are a standard ingredient in many savory dishes.
From the book On Food and Cooking (2nd edition) by Harold McGee. © 2004 Harold McGee. By permission of Scribner, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.