By Bonnie L. Grant
Curry leaf plants are a component of the Indian seasoning called curry. Curry seasoning is a compilation of many herbs and spices, whose flavor can sometimes come from curry leaf plants. Curry leaf herb is a culinary plant whose leaves are used as an aromatic and the fruit of the plant is a component of desserts in some Eastern nations.
About the Curry Leaf Herb
The curry leaf tree (Murraya koenigii) is a small bush or tree that only grows 13 to just under 20 feet in height. The plant is tropical to sub-tropical and produces small fragrant white flowers that become small black berry-like fruits. The fruit is edible, but the seed is poisonous and must be removed prior to use. The foliage is the real standout and are arranged alternately on the stem, pinnate and comprised of many leaflets. The aromatic scent is spicy and heady and best when the leaves are fresh.
Growing Curry Leaves
Curry leaf plants may be grown from cuttings or seed. The seed is the pit of the fruit and can either be cleaned or the entire fruit may be sown. Fresh seed shows the greatest rate of germination. Sow the seeds in potting soil and keep them damp but not wet. They will need a warm area of at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 C.) to germinate. Growing curry leaf tree from seed is not an easy task because germination is fickle. Other methods are more consistent.
You can also use fresh curry leaves with petiole or stem and start a plant. Treat the leaves as a cutting and insert into a soilless potting medium. Take a piece of stem from the tree that is about 3 inches long and has several leaves. Remove the bottom 1 inch of leaves. Immerse the bare stem into the medium and mist thoroughly. It will root in about three weeks if you keep it warm and moist. Growing curry leaves to produce a new plant is the easiest method of propagation.
Growing curry leaf tree in the home garden is only advisable in areas without freezes. Curry leaf plant is frost tender but it can be grown indoors. Plant the tree in a well drained pot with good potting mix and place in a sunny area. Feed it weekly with a diluted solution of seaweed fertilizer and trim the leaves as needed.
Watch the plant for mites and scale. Use an insecticidal soap to combat the pests. Curry leaf requires moderately moist soil. Curry leaf care is quite straight forward and even suitable for a beginner.
Using Curry Leaf Herb
Curry leaves have the strongest flavor and aroma when fresh. You can use them in soups, sauces and stews as you would use a bay leaf and fish it out when the leaf has steeped. You can also dry the leaves and crush them for use. Store them in a sealed glass jar out of light and use within a couple of months. Because they lose flavor quickly, growing curry leaf tree is the best way to have a good, constant supply of this flavorful herb.