As with many spices and herbs, the fragrance of the bay leaf is stronger than its taste. When dried, the fragrance is herbal, slightly floral, and similar to oregano and thyme. Bay leaves are an essential in the cooking of many European and Mediterranean cuisines, as well as in the Americas. They are used in meat, seafood and vegetable dishes, as well as in soups, stews and sauces. The leaves also flavor many classic French dishes and are most often used whole, sometimes in a Bouquet garni. It is important to remove before serving, bay leaves are pungent and have a sharp, bitter taste.