French: laurier, feuille de laurier, laurier-sauce
Other names: bay laurel, sweet bay
The Herb That Thinks It's A Spice
Laurus nobilis is an aromatic evergreen tree or large shrub with green, glabrous leaves, in the flowering plant family Lauraceae. It is native to the Mediterranean region and provides bay leaves for seasoning in cooking.
This attractive tree from the Mediterranean region and Near East is distinguished by its straight trunk, evergreen leaves, and shaggy growth. Its lanceolate leaves, rich in essential oils and aromatic compounds, release a distinctive scent when crushed.
It flowers in the spring. The light yellow flowers are of no culinary use, nor are the fruits (dark violet ovoid berries), although an oil is extracted from them used in making Alep soap.
There are numerous varieties of bay trees, including the pink bay. They should not be confused with the bay used in cooking, since other species are toxic and even one leaf can prove lethal to an adult. Only the bay laurel is edible.
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