Bay Leaf (Laurus nobilis)
Thriving in warmer climates, the bay leaf is hugely popular in Mediterranean recipes but also has several variants such as the Californian and the Indian strains, offering slightly differing flavours.
Bay leaves lend themselves to slow cooking (eaten whole they have a pungent, almost bitter taste), releasing their herbal flavours into a wide variety of stews, soups, meat and seafood dishes.
Particularly associated with Mediterranean and indeed Italian sauces and recipes, they go extremely well with oregano and marjoram and are often removed before serving the dish.
Try crushing the leaves for a more intense flavour but use a tea infuser or muslin bag to make their removal easier.