Bay leaf – the symbol of victory and wisdom

August 14, 2010 ,

Native to the Mediterranean region, the bay laurel is a perennial shrub with spearheaded leaves that release a very strong fragrance when crushed, as they are rich in essential oils. Bay or laurel leaves are an essential component of the “bouquet garni“, a blend of aromatic herbs that is used in a variety of recipes and removed before serving.

In Indian and Pakistani cuisines, bay leaves are often used in “biryani”, other rich spicy dishes – and as an ingredient in “garam masala“. Dried bay leaves are used to flavour pickles, soups and stews, as their aroma fully develops during cooking.

Early Greeks and Romans associated the bay laurel with Apollo, the patron god of music and poetry. It was also a symbol of victory: poets and heroes were crowned with wreaths of laurel leaves. That’s why people are advised not to “rest on their laurels”. As for the French word baccalauréat (from the Latin bacca laurea), meaning Bachelor’s degree here in Canada, its origin dates back to the ancient schools of medicine, where young graduates were felicitated with crowns of laurel branches (laurea) with their berries (bacca).

As the dense and persistent foliage of the bay laurel tree is shiny and dark green, it is also cultivated for ornamentation. Although it can thrive in any type of soil, it requires a warm climate. So go ahead, blend beauty and utility by growing it inside your own house. But when you use bay leaf in your cooking, please don’t confuse it with its cousins, oleander and cherry-laurel, which are very poisonous and purely decorative!

A few of our recipes that feature bay leaves:

Chicken “Adobo”

chicken adobo bay leaf
See the recipe >>

Marengo Chicken

marengo chicken bay leaf
See the recipe >>

Irish Beef Stew

See the recipe >>

Scalloped Potatoes

See the recipe >>

Originally published in the Journal de Montréal on August 14, 2010.


Cinzia Cuneo
Cinzia Cuneo, founder of, never wanted to neglect the quality of her food. She shares her special expertise to make good food quickly and without complications!

One comment to “Bay leaf – the symbol of victory and wisdom”

February 25, 2012 Evellyn said:

The bay levaes you buy are from the Bay Laural tree. There are several types of Laural. All Bay levaes are from the Laural but not all Laural levaes are Bay.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This website uses cookies to give the best user experience, monitor the site performance, offer social networks features, or display advertisements. By clicking "ACCEPT", you consent to the use of cookies in accordance to our privacy policy.

Our weekly newsletter includes:

  • Recipes, tips and advice on healthy eating
  • Occasional promotions on products & services from SOSCuisine and some trusted partners
  • Occasional invitations to help scientific research by answering surveys or participating in studies
  • Your email address will never be shared without your permission and you may unsubscribe at any time.
SOSCuisine, 3470 Stanley, Suite 1605, Montreal, QC, H3A 1R9, Canada.