Curry Please

Curry Please

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I really enjoyed my visit to Cornell Plantations this week, particularly the herb garden, which was still looking good after several hard frosts. Even in the relatively chilly November air, I was overpowered by scent as I passed one of the 17 theme beds.  This was clearly the “tussie mussie and nosegay” bed.

Particularly fragrant were the green santolina and the curry plant, Helichrysum italicum, which looks like lavender and smells like dinner–but isn’t good to eat.

I remember, however, once buying a different herbaceous plant labelled as “curry plant” in a nursery that smelled similarly savory, but that had rounded little succulent leaves. I haven’t identified that one yet.

And then there is the curry tree, Murraya koenigii, pictured above, which is native to India and actually is used in Indian cooking.  When I interviewed the great Indian cookbook writer Madhur Jaffrey, she was laughing at the lengths to which she’d gone–driving out to Jersey in order to meet the one not terribly professional guy offering it at the time–in order to obtain a curry tree to grow in a pot.  When we spoke it wasn’t doing terribly well for her.  I remember her telling me about a few pathetic leaves hanging on. 

Maybe that’s not an uncommmon experience, as this Atlantic blog post suggests.  Still, all risks involving dinner are worth taking, in my opinion.  I’m ordering a curry tree!  It can join my neglected potted rosemary, bay tree, and citrus trees that are dragged in and out of the house every year at some point.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Photo credit: Rantingsteve

Posted by

Michele Owens
on November 4, 2011 at 5:07 am, in the category Books, Eat This.

8 Comments
    • Monica Felt
    • 31st December 2015

    Your succulent aromatic plant may be ‘Cuban Oregano’, Plectranthus amboinicus.

    • Michele Owens
    • 12th March 2016

    Monica, you got it! I just read that it’s also known as Indian borage. And, unlike curry plant, it’s good to cook with.

    • John
    • 19th October 2016

    Some herb books will tell you NOT to cook with it. I’ve never heard of anyone ever getting sick eating any Plectranthus species, it is a favorite of the Caribbean – but I have read where it contains some mild toxins.

    • Kate
    • 23rd October 2016

    I got my curry leaf plant from Logees. First one I did kill, this one is still going…. and you just reminded me to water it! It is indeed worth repeat tries, as the market that sometimes has fresh curry leaves is too far away, doesn’t have them in stock when I want them for something specific, and if I just buy them I only use a few before they go bad in the fridge. I am keeping my fingers crossed that this one I can get through the winter. It will never look like the trees in your photo, though!

    • Becky
    • 30th October 2016

    This is my second winter with my curry leaf plant. Mine also came from Logees and it was a fine plant. Last year it did well for me, even producing some lovely white fragrant flowers. This year I have scale. Right now the plant resides in the bathroom and gets a shower now and then. It is doing a little better.It’s hard for a tropical plant that loves it hot and humid to tolerate my 65 degree winter dry environment, but where threr’s life there’s hope!

    • Hanna at Orchid Care
    • 4th November 2016

    I recently discovered a Lavender plant growing on the side of my house. I was very surprise but pleased to welcome it.

    • Marie
    • 10th November 2016

    The round-leafed plant was probably also a helichrysum species – there are many. When I hike in Cape Town one of the greatest pleasures is smelling the “curry bush” on the mountain.

    • Marie
    • 12th November 2016

    Argh – sorry – had not noticed the Cuban oregano comment…

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