Bay leaves are the aromatic leaves of several plants, especially the bay laurel, which are used in cooking. They are used to add fragrance and flavour to a wide variety of dishes in Europe, the Americas, and in Asia, particularly stocks and stews. They help to add a good depth of flavour. The leaves are usually added whole and removed at the end of the cooking process.
Some laurel plants, which may have leaves which look similar to edible bay leaves, are poisonous to humans and livestock – so if you are growing your own rather than buying a commercially available brand, then take great care that you have the right plant! Leaves sold commercially are usually dried prior to packaging.
Bay leaves are also said to be useful for repelling vermin, eg cockroaches and mice, if scattered around in the pantry.