When seasoning a dish before popping it in the oven, you might not think about the plants the herbs and spices came from. One time you might is when using bay leaves. It’s one thing to sprinkle food with oregano or thyme, but sticking an entire leaf into a pot as it simmers might seem odd.
While it is not common to eat them whole, tucking the aromatic leaves into food while cooking is popular. Bay leaves come from an evergreen plant called a bay laurel, which grows in warm climates. Bay leaves have been grown around the world for centuries and used as a seasoning as well as essential oil and in traditional medicine applications for thousands of years.
But bay leaves have taken some heat in recent years.
In a story entitled “The Vast Bay Leave Conspiracy” at the Awl, writer Kelly Conaboy laid into the tough little leaf that appears in so many recipes.