The Myth (because who doesn’t love a good myth?!):
Apollo, the Greek/Roman god of music, poetry, art, the sun and a great warrior, mocked the god of love, Eros (Cupid), for his use of bow and arrow.
Insulted, Eros prepared two arrows: one of gold and one of lead. He shot Apollo with the gold arrow, instilling in the god a passionate love for the river nymph Daphne. He shot Daphne with the lead arrow, instilling in her a hatred for Apollo.
Daphne, a self-declared spurner of men and lover of woodland sports and forests, ran and ran from Apollo, fleeing his never-ceasing pursuit. Apollo continually followed her, begging her to stay, but the nymph continued to reject him. They were evenly matched in the race until Eros intervened, helping Apollo catch up to Daphne. Seeing that Apollo was bound to reach her, she called upon her father, "Help me, Pheneus! Open the earth to enclose me, or change my form, which has brought me into this danger! Let me be free of this man from this moment forward!"
Taking pity on her, Pheneus turned her daughter in a beautiful Larel Tree, entwining her feet with the earth and her limbs with the sky. Apollo vowed to honor her forever, and used his powers of eternal youth and immortality to render Daphne evergreen. For this reason, the leaves of the Bay laurel tree do not decay.
Bay leaf, also called laurel leaf, leaf of the sweet bay tree, an evergreen of the family Lauraceae, indigenous to countries bordering the Mediterranean. A popular spice used in pickling and marinating and to flavour stews, stuffings, and fish, bay leaves are delicately fragrant but have a bitter taste. They contain approximately 2 percent essential oil, the principal component of which is cineole. The smooth and lustrous dried bay leaves are usually used whole and then removed from the dish after cooking; they are sometimes marketed in powdered form. Bay has been cultivated from ancient times; its leaves constituted the wreaths of laurel that crowned victorious athletes in ancient Greece. During the Middle Ages bay leaves were used medicinally.
Use fresh, or dry in a well-ventilated area.
In the Kitchen
In Indian and Pakistani cuisine, bay laurel leaves are sometimes used in place of Indian bay leaf, although they have a different flavour. They are most often used in rice dishes like biryani and as an ingredient in garam masala. Bay (laurel) leaves are frequently packaged as tejpatta (the Hindi term for Indian bay leaf), creating confusion between the two herbs.
Bay leaves were used for flavouring by the ancient Greeks. They are a fixture in the cooking of many European cuisines (particularly those of the Mediterranean), as well as in the Americas. They are used in soups, stews, meat, seafood, vegetable dishes, and sauces. The leaves also flavour many classic French dishes. The leaves are most often used whole (sometimes in a bouquet garni) and removed before serving (they can be abrasive in the digestive tract). Thai and Laotian cuisine employs bay leaf (Thai name bai kra wan) in a few Arab-influenced dishes, notably massaman curry.
Bay leaves can also be crushed or ground before cooking. Crushed bay leaves impart more fragrance than whole leaves, but are more difficult to remove, and thus they are often used in a muslin bag or tea infuser. Ground bay laurel may be substituted for whole leaves, and does not need to be removed, but it is much stronger.
Bay leaves are also used in the making of jerk chicken in the Caribbean Islands. The bay leaves are soaked and placed on the cool side of the grill. Pimento sticks are placed on top of the leaves and the chicken is placed on top and smoked.