Mysterious Curry Leaves

I must have been South Indian in a former life. The aromatic, mysterious scent, and the herbaceous, anise, and citrus notes of fresh curry leaves makes me so happy. My local Indian grocery keeps me stocked with fresh curry leaves, but I decided to get a baby curry plant of my very own. I ordered one from Seeds of India in New Jersey in February, and they took my order to fulfill it when the plants reached a stage they established enough and ready to be shipped in May. You can see how small it is compared to the quarter coin placed next to it for scale. If you do want to buy a curry plant make sure you are purchasing curry leaf tree (murraya koenigli) NOT the curryplant (helichrysum italicum).

After 2 days in its little shipping box, it arrived in good condition, ready for a larger and more permanent pot. Curry leaves, also known as karuveppilai, murraya koenigii, or sweet neem in India, add a richness to soups, vegetable dishes, snacks, rice, pickles, and meat dishes. They are most of coarsely chopped and sauteed with onions as the foundation for a dish.

There is precious little gardening going on around here unless you count some orchids on the window sills, but since our recent move to New Mexico, I am expecting all the warmth and sun we get to suit this deciduous, sub-tropical tree perfectly. If you would like to see a video that shows in detail how to care for a curry leaf tree, view the video from Kitchen Garden Magazine on YouTube.

Finding & Storing

If you are lucky enough to find curry leaves in a local store, I find you typically get far more than you can use up before they are no longer fresh. Wash and dry the leaves you want to store and place them in an airtight plastic bag, then pop into the freezer. They do darken a little, but the flavor and aroma are still there. You can also buy fresh curry leaves from Amazon or ishopindian.  As a last resort, dry curry leaves are an option, though I haven’t tried them yet. 

Substitution idea: to replace a sprig or 10 to 12 curry leaves, use the zest of one lime. It won’t taste the same but you will add a nice flavor to your dish.

A curry tree keeping my orchid company on the kitchen window sill: