Curry Plant – A flavorful staple herb of Indian cuisine, curry leaves are something that Indian kitchens just can’t do without! With its scientific name being Murraya Koenigii Spreng, the curry plant actually belongs to the Rutaceae family. Native to India and grown in tropical and subtropical regions, countries like Ceylon, China, Nigeria, etc also grow curry plant and it is a medium growth plant with the root, bark and leaves being most practical parts.
A small tree budding around 4–6 m tall, Curry tree/plant has aromatic leaves and little while flowers that begin to pollinate on their own to develop minute black berries. These berries have a big feasible seed and the pulp has a sweet, medicinal flavor and is edible. Nevertheless, experts focus culinary application of the curry tree primarily on its leaves and bark.
The Ayurveda connection and nutritional facts of curry leaves
The Indian ancient medicine system of Ayurveda, curry leaves hold a vital status as they are believed to possess a multitude of medicinal properties. These leaves are
- Hepato-protective (liver protection)
The root of the plant is largely applied into body ache treatment while the bark is said to relieve snake bites.
Curry leaves primarily contain Carbohydrates, Phosphorus, Energy, Copper, Fiber, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, along with numerous other minerals. Several vitamins like Nicotinic Acid, Vitamin E, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E along with Antioxidants, Amino Acids, Flavonoids, Plant Sterols, Glycosides, etc are also found in these.
Research has hinted that curry leaves are rich in Carbazole Alkaloids that have antioxidant properties along with being insecticidal as well as antimicrobial, mosquitocidal in nature.
Culinary and other benefits-uses of Curry leaves
You would already know the vast usage of curry leaves in Indian cuisine since there is hardly a dish in South Indian that doesn’t require curry leaves. In fact, many north Indian dishes also make their religious use for Samosa Stuffing, Raita preparation, Lentil and vegetable preparation, and gravy, etc.
Usually, the leaves are used as a passive but important herb for its beautiful aroma and allowed to stew with the rest of the ingredients. Many prefer to fry the leaves with onion, ginger, and garlic in the first stage of gravy preparation and sometimes, it is added to the puree and allowed to cook as par to the soup.
Getting fresh Curry leaves is hard because they don’t fare well when plucked and may not survive well even when refrigerated so maintaining a fresh supply is very important if you are a fan of this herb. But you can freeze them and wrap to use them for longer than a few days.
Dried curry leaves are no match for the fresh ones so if you value authenticity, go for the fresh leaves.
The aroma of Murraya Koenigii has led to its decent use in soap making, diffusers, massage oils, body lotions, hair treatments, diffusers, aromatherapy, potpourri, perfumes, etc. In fact, among Hindu households, often curry leaves are used when Tulsi leaves are not available.
Antioxidant benefits of curry leaves
You would’ve probably heard of green tea for boosting your anti-cancer and anti-aging defense but there is a solution close to home: curry leaves. What makes our Indian cuisine so special is that every herb and spice have a significant health based importance and with a high nutritional value of curry leaves, you will get much more benefits than any other spice.
Rich in anti-aging, antioxidant and recovery boosting vitamins like Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Vitamin C along with plant sterols, flavonoids, etc, you will sure be safeguarding your health by adding curry leaves into your food.
Is there a thing like too many curry leaves?
Curry leaves are primarily used for their flavor and aroma so the usage volume can vary as per your taste and use too little and too much of the leaves may influence the flavor of the dish so practice discretion where necessary. But you can heighten your intake of the leaves by including them in your food more often.
Growing Curry Leaves: Aromatic addition to your little Indian herb garden
Curry leaf is among the best plants to grow because of its soothing aroma and small size. The pungent leaves follow an open growth appearance, making it perfect for your little indoor kitchen garden. Because it is a tropical plant and perfect for Indian climate, you won’t have a hard time taking care of it.
The leaves often fall during winters but grow back with flowers during rest of the year and spring is especially beautiful. Also, you will need to pick from the different varieties namely
- Regular (grow high quite fast)
- Dwarf (take time to grow and sprout longer leaves with lighter shade)
- Gamthi (fragrant with thick leaves but take longest to grow)
All of the varieties listed above need full sun to grow well and should be well-drained. Another major requirement is that you will need to sow the seeds in slightly acidic soil and make sure that the temperature remains above 40 degrees F.
Planting curry leaf in container/pot
Growing in a small pot or container is best suitable for indoor gardens and you can transplant the soil along with your plant to a bigger container as it gets bigger. Harvesting the leaves routinely will also cut down the need of moving the plant. But ensure that the plant gets enough light and warmth even in winter as otherwise, it may wane.
Also, if you are planting your container outdoors now, ensure that you gradually get the plant accustomed to full sunlight by beginning to keep it outside for progressively increasing hours. Don’t keep it out in prime hot summer months to avoid ruining the leaves. During hot months of May, June and August, you can keep the plant out during a morning and then bring it back inside during prime hours (12-4).
Whether you grow Curry leaf for ayurvedic purpose or for culinary, make sure that you cultivate and harvest the leaves when they mature to prevent overgrowth as that may not be suitable for a smaller kitchen garden.