I remember learning as a child that under no uncertain terms should I eat a bay leaf. They were considered to be dangerous to eat because they were very toxic. I came to believe that this was the reason people cooked with a whole bay leaf and then fished it out of the stew or soup prior to serving.
So are bay leaves dangerous to eat?
Bay leaves are NOT dangerous to eat. This is an extremely common myth but holds no merit. It is believed that this myth began because there are leaves that look strikingly similar to the bay leaf (mountain laurel and cherry laurel leaves) that are poisonous to humans and animals.
A word of caution though, we do still recommend you fish that bay leaf out of your stew after preparation. The purpose of the bay leaf is to simmer in your soup to release added flavor and aroma. However, even after hours of cooking, the bay leaf remains very rigid and stiff. Swallowing a large piece could cause you to scratch your digestive tract or potentially (although rare) pose a choking hazard.
But don’t pass on adding the bay leaf to your next soup, stew, chili or stock because you don’t want to fish it out. You will most certainly find that adding the bay leaf will add a delicious, deeper finish to each bite.