The curry plant from southern Europe is a somewhat new addition to list of herbal plants. The sweet curry scent of it's silver green leaves has cause it recent popularity among adventurous cooks.
The curry plant is an herb that is grown both for its ornamental beauty, its aroma and its flavor when used in foods. As a young plant it looks very similar to lavender, growing dusty greenish-grey, needle shaped leaves.When the plant matures, the appearance changes as small round, yellow colored flowers bloom on the stalks of the plant which may reach 24 inches in height.
Curry plant is often used as a seasoning by the English to flavor cream cheese sandwich spreads. The strong aroma of this herb which has a distinctive sage like fragrance or that of a mixture of curry spices, should be added to foods sparingly. It can also be added to dressings to season salads or it can be used to flavor meats, such as chicken (tuck it under the skin of the poultry during cooking).
The curry plant should not be confused with curry leaves that grow on the curry tree. Although curry leaves are also used to season various foods, the plant providing these leaves is considerably larger and is a different plant entirely.
Add the leaves to soups, stews, steamed vegetables, rice dishes and pickles for a mild curry flavor. Remove sprig before serving.
Cultivation of Curry Plant
Site: Curry plant prefers to be planted in full sun in a sheltered area. It flowers prolifically in poor well-drained loamy soil. The curry plant is a tender perennial hardy to zone 8, but can be grown with protection in zone 6. Not suitable for growing indoors, but can be grown in pots outdoors.
Propagation: Seed - sow February/March in a greenhouse. The seed usually germinates in 2 - 3 weeks at 20°c. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Take stem cuttings in spring or autumn.
Growing: Plant 12 inches apart. Prune lightly in early autumn or spring. In areas with light frost, curry plants may die back temporarily. Protect leaves with 5-inch sleeve of straw set between chicken wire. In areas where temperature drops below 22°F, bring curry plants indoors for winter protection.
Harvesting: Pick leaves anytime and gather flowers as they open.
Culinary Uses: The leaves can be used fresh or dried to give a subtle seasoning to soups or stews but there is no resemblance to the intensity of flavour derived from M.koenigii. The flowers, which are borne in umbels, can be used in the kitchen as an attractive garnish or they can be dried for winter arrangements