Curry Leaf Plant
Native to South Asia
Full sun to part shade (4 to 8 hours/day)
Leaves from the curry plant are 1 to 2 inches long and grow with several leaves to a branch or section. They are traditionally used in many Indian and Asian dishes and grow naturally in forests across the Asian continent but especially in India and Sri Lanka.
Used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine, curry leaves are believed to have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. When ground into a powder or boiled in water to make a tonic, it is used to stimulate and regualte the digestive system. The leaves contain Vitamin A, Vitamin B, and have several alkaloids and amino acids that support its use as a medicine or dietary suppliment.
Curry leaves are traditonally used in many south asian dishes. What is sold in stores as curry powder is actually a spice blend, which means though it often includes these leaves, they have their own distinct flavor from the powder.
To cook with curry leaves, use them similarly to bay leaves, though the cooked leaves are edible and do not need to be removed once they've been cooked into a dish. The full flavor of the leaves can be brought out by using the fresh leaves similar to other aromatics like onions or garlic. Sauteeing them in oil or adding them to a ghee will enhance their natural aroma and add flavor to your dish.
The leaves can be dried and ground up, but it will greatly reduce their flavor and they are best used fresh. However if picked fresh and put in an airight container, they can last for up to two weeks in the fridge and six weeks in the freezer.
Finally while the small berries produced by the plant are edible, the seeds are not. The berries also have very little flavor, so they are not generally used in cooking.
Water throughout the year, when the top 1 to 2 inches of soil is dry to the touch. Pour your water into the top of the container and continue until water drains from the bottom of the pot. Hotter days means the plant may require more irrigation than usual, so make sure to check it during the summer. If kept inside, watering will more consistent though it will still require less watering during the winter months.
This plant is tropical to sub-topical, though it can survive winters outside in Zone 6, which is where the Boston area is located. If outside, it will lose its leaves during the winter and grow them back in the spring. If kept inside or in another appropriate climate, it is considered an evergreen.
In general, you may need to repot your curry leaf tree every one to three years depending on the size. When outside, it can reach a maximum height of 20 feet, though in smaller pots when inside it will reach about six and can always be pruned to the height desired, or to have a more buhs-like shape. It has a slow growth rate, increasing by six to ten inches per year for the first few years after planting, so you won't need to repot too often. Move into medium to heavy soil that drains well and make sure the pot used has adequate holes to facilitate drainage immediately after watering.