Curry powders come close, but they do not quite match the flavour of curry leaves. This is not surprising, since curry powders are mixtures of other spices. Fresh curry leaves normally are available only in areas with large populations of individuals of Indian and Southeast Asian descent, and even then only rarely. With a little care and a bright, sunny window, however, you may buy and grow this small, subtropical tree at home.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
Locate a garden speciality store, catalogue, or online vendor that specialises in ethnic culinary items. Check stores that sell other plants from the same region, such as jasmine plants, to see if they can special order curry leaf trees from their suppliers. Online commerce has made the globe smaller.
Check Indian and Southeast Asian supermarkets, in addition to garden speciality stores. Since it is very common for individuals in those cultures to have kitchen gardens, herb plants are often available during your local planting season.
Double-check the name of what you are ordering, particularly if it just says "curry plant" or "curry leaf plant." The botanical name of the true curry leaf plant is Murraya koenigii. An unrelated plant that is no culinary substitute has the botanical name Helichrysum italicum. Both are called "curry leaf plant" in common parlance.
Look for strong, healthy growth on the plant---if purchasing it from a walk-in plant store or nursery---even if the plant is small. During winter, like many tropical plants, curry leaf plants should not be watered often. It's OK if the soil is dry during winter, but check with the seller to make sure the plant has received proper care.
Tips and warnings
- Avoid curry leaf trees that look weak and sickly, or exude any sort of rotten smell from their roots. Chances are good that they will not survive, and your mission will end in heartbreak. If the roots smell rotten, the plant has likely been subjected to overwatering, which may be the reason the plant looks unhealthy.
- Curry leaves are often dry roasted whole, along with other spices to be used in a masala, or spice blend. Use leaves straight from your curry leaf tree for best taste.
- Curry leaf trees do best as house plants in the northern hemisphere, since they thrive in temperatures above 12.8 degrees Celsius. Apply a good all-purpose fertiliser according to package instructions, and grow in a window that gets full sun. You can also move them outdoors to a sunny location when your local weather is above freezing. Water moderately spring through fall; water sparingly in winter, as growth drastically slows over this time.
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