Scientific Name: Murraya koenigii
Native to India and Sri Lanka, this purple-black fruited tree in the family Rutaceae is most famous for its aromatic leaves — the origin of the curry flavor.
Because Curry Leaf needs to be used fresh, the yellow "curry powder" sold by grocers does in fact not contain any curry, but is a mix of spices intended to mimic the true curry flavor. The familiar yellow colour is obtained by adding Tumeric root to the spice mixture.
Curry Leaf must not be confused with Helichrysum italicum, commonly called "curry bush", a small grayish herbaceous perennial.
The Curry-leaf tree is a small to medium sized tropical/subtropical tree that can grow up to 2.5m high. It has a dark green to brownish main stem with numerous dots on it and has long slender leaflets that are dark green on top with a paler underside — they are popularly called Curry leaves or Sweet Neem leaves. The Curry Leaf bears small, white sweetly scented flowers in late spring to early summer which later turn into black edible berries.
The Curry Leaf prefers sun or partial shade and needs to be watered regularly during summer. During winter it needs to be protected from frost and watered sparingly.
Curry Leaf is quite ornamental and can be grown in containers.
Although it does not need re-potting very often, it must be fertilized weekly.
Harvest and parts used
The leaves, bark and root.
Fresh leaves are harvested as needed. They will keep in the vegetable compartment of your refrigerator for up to two weeks. They can also be vacuum-freezed. If they are allowed to dry naturally in the open air, they will lose most of their pungency.
The nutritious sweet pulp around the seed (fruit) can be eaten
Curry Leaves are used as an important food flavoring in Indian and Asian cuisine, much like bay leaves, and especially in curries with fish or coconut milk.
One way to use curry leaves is by frying mustard seeds and chopped onion, then adding several curry leaves for just a few seconds, before stirring them into the main dish. If the leaves are added whole, they should be removed before the dish is served.
Alternatively, the leaves can be finely chopped or minced before they are used in curries, added to marinades, omelet’s or to any other dish to add spice.
The fruit pulp contains Vitamin C, ash, protein, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron.
Curryleaf exhibits strong antibacterial and antifungal properties.
The leaves are used in Ayurvedic medicine to stimulate the cardiovascular system and as an anti-diabetic, anti-oxidant, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, hepato-protective and anti-hypercholesterolemic.
The leaves, bark and root can be used as a tonic and a stomachic and are also used externally to cure eruptions and the bites of poisonous animals.
It is said that the green leaves can be eaten raw to cure dysentery, and an infusion of the washed leaves can be taken internally to stop vomiting. Curry leaves are also known to be a hair tonic.