The Bay leaf tree is also called the Bay laurel or Sweet bay leaf (Laurus nobilis) is a Mediterranean tree whose leaves are used as a herb in cooking.
So, the question arises...when should Bay leaves be harvested for best flavor?
There are differences of opinion on the response to this question but in general Bay leaves can be harvested year round (as an evergreen tree it has leaves 12 months of the year). The flavor that the leaves can produce however grows gradually more intense with time as the leaf matures until they begin to dry up prior to falling off the tree.
There are some that hold that Bay leaves have a more intense fragrance just before the tree flowers. I´m not aware of there being any relationship between the leaf fragrance and the flowering period of the tree.
The leaves are best used in cooking after having been properly dried for at least a few days. One way to dry the leaves is to hang a branch upside down in a dry location for a week or so. The leaves can then by removed from the branch and placed in a container or can be left hanging until needed. The flavor of the leaves left out in the open will gradually fade over time.
Another key fact in the use of Bay leaves is that although they give a nice flavor to a dish the leaf itself is not eaten. This is why the leaves are often left whole...it is easier to remove them. A crushed leaf will give more taste but is very difficult to remove.