In a custom as old as ancient Greece, a garland of bay leaves is yet today given as a tribute to poets and athletes, from which come the phrase "crowned with laurel" and the title "poet laureate."
Bay leaves, among the most commonly used culinary herbs, add spice to stews, soups, and sauces, especially in Spanish, Creole, and French dishes.
Boil a bay leaf in milk to flavor custards and rice pudding. Or place one in your rice storage container for an added burst of flavor. The leaves can be used fresh or dried; tear or crumble them first to release the most flavor. Discard the leaves before serving any dish prepared with them.
Bay trees make lovely topiaries. The leaves often are used in fresh and dried herbal wreaths and garlands, as well as in potpourris.
Cultivation: The easiest way to bring bay into your garden is with a young tree purchased from a nursery. If you live in a cooler climate, plant your tree in a container and bring it indoors when temperatures drop below 45 degrees F.