Origin & History
Since ancient times, Bay (Laurus Nobilis, from the Laurel family) has been considered a symbol of glory, peace and protection. Ancient Greeks believed that bay leaves had divinatory powers, while ancient Romans used them as the symbol of military triumph: in fact, victorious generals where decorated with a laurel wreath. In the Middle Ages, the concept of triumph was also extended to poetry and literature.
Bay is an evergreen shrub that grows wild in the Mediterranean areas, but it also adapts to fresher areas like woods and hills. It has a black bark and oval, dark green aromatic leaves. This plant produces little dark berries and light yellow flowers in spring.
Bay leaves are useful to flavour meat dishes and soups and, together with other Mediterranean herbs (like thymus, persil and sage) they are commonly used to season different sauces and broths. Just take care of removing the leaves before serving your dish, because they have a slightly bitter taste.
Fresh bay leaves can also be used to prepare a digestive infusion, thanks to the essential oils they contain (cineol and eugenol), which also have a protective effect on the liver. To help digestion, you can add some bay leaves together with a lemon peel to boiling water.