Native to the Mediterranean and Asia, bay leaves are grown commercially in Mexico, Guatemala, Turkey, France, Greece, Russia and North America.
The bay leaf is oval, pointed and smooth, and ranges from two to eight centimetres in length. When fresh, the leaves are shiny and dark-green on top, with lighter undersides. When dried, the bay leaf is a matte, olive-green colour.
In New Zealand, bay leaves are predominately used in their dried form. The herb's spiciness lends itself well to rich foods such as meat or egg dishes, and also complements dishes that contain tomatoes. Bay leaves are most commonly used in slow-cooked meat dishes such as casseroles.