Ah, Curry Leaves. I do miss them. In Florida I had a plant that grew beautifully, giving me the ability to run out and pick them as needed. I just love the flavors imparted when using them in a dish. The first time I saw this plant I had no idea what it was. When living in Louisiana, we had Indian acquaintances, and Priti had a plant in her yard. It was not until much later that I found out what it was and got a plant of my own. I was so glad I did, as I used it very often. Once I learned the flavor, I added it to many of my Indian meals.
|Curry Leaves - Murraya koenigii|
The plant easily self-sows, and I soon had a second plant growing alongside the first. I figured it could be my backup, in case something happened to one. At the time I owned the plant, I had no idea that the seeds were also edible, and never even took photos of them, though they were abundant.
Not to be confused with the European Curry Plant, Helichrysum italicum, Curry Leaves come from the Curry plant, Murraya koenigii. It is a tender, evergreen shrub reaching up to 20 feet tall in its native southwest Asian habitat. It grows in the foothills of the Himalayas, southern India and Sri Lanka, and is cultivated in many Indian gardens. The leaves are a mid green in color and grow about 16 to 20 on each small stalk. The small, star shaped white flowers grow in clusters in summer, followed by edible, peppery tasting black berries. It is best to use the leaves fresh as they have little flavor once dried. A handful of dried leaves are needed to take the place of just a few, if fresh.
|Closeup of Flower of the Curry Leaf Plant|
The leaves have the flavor of a curry dish, and lend this flavor where used, along with a slight citrus-like scent. The whole leaf stalk may be added to a dish and removed later. The leaves may be fried quickly at the beginning of cooking to release flavor into the oil being used. Curry leaves are an ingredient in Madras curry powder, and are often used in dishes with brown mustard seeds and dried red chiles. This Indian dish using curry leaves is one of my favorites, though the photo is not my own:
Fragrant Lemon Rice
Serves 6 - 8
|Fragrant Lemon Rice|
6 cups cooked basmati rice (2 cups raw makes
6 cups cooked)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ teaspoon brown mustard seeds
½ cup raw peanuts or cashews
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon fresh garlic, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
20 - 30 curry leaves (2 - 3 sprigs)
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup water, if needed
If rice has just been made, cool completely first, stirring often. Put in refrigerator and stir occasionally until cool.
Mix together the ginger, garlic, sugar, turmeric, curry leaves, salt and lemon juice. Set aside.
In large frying pan, over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Add the mustard seeds, saute until they turn grey and start sputtering, about 30 seconds. Make sure not to burn. WARNING: Mustard seeds can sputter out of the pan very easily!
Add the peanuts or cashews and saute until light brown, about two minutes. Add the spice mixture and saute for an additional two minutes. Add the rice and mix well with the spices, mustard seeds and peanuts. Continue stirring until everything has been mixed together and the rice is heated through. This dish is best served hot or at room temperature.
|Closeup of Curry Leaves|
Growing this plant is very rewarding
My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.