Bay leaves are a group of aromatic leaves used in a variety of different cuisines. Our bay leaf hedge is made of the bay laurel variety, but there are also Californian, Indian, Indonesian and Mexican bay leaves, all slightly different in flavour. Millions of years ago, the Mediterranean Basin was covered in evergreen, glossy forests called laurel forests as the climate was a lot more humid. During the Pliocene era, the forests dried up and bay laurel plants are a relic of these laurel forests. Scientists often use the presence of naturally occurring bay leaf shrubs and trees in the Mediterranean as evidence that a laurel forest once thrived in that area. Being native to the Mediterranean, bay leaves are an important part of Italian, Greek and Spanish cuisine. They are used most often in soups, stews and sauces to add a herbal flavour, similar to oregano. Bay leaves aren’t eaten whole as they have an unpleasantly bitter taste and can hurt your digestive tract as they are stiff even after cooking. This is why recipes using bay leaves will advise you to remove the bay leaf after you’re finished cooking. Crushed bay leaves impart a stronger flavour but are more difficult to remove, so add some a crushed bay leaf to a tea infuser if you’re looking to add some extra flavour to a Bolognese, curry or sauce. We use bay leaves in our farm tapas menu in dishes like hummus, chicken liver parfait, beef cheek in winter and to infuse custard for our rhubarb dessert!