The curry leaf tree grows best in zones 9-12 and when the temperature is above or around 65°F. Its height ranges between 6 to 15 feet and its width ranges between 4 to 12 feet. Seeds or suckers from the adult trees may be used for propagation. Before planting, the husk should be removed from the seed. This method requires 1-2 years for the plant to become fully established. The tree should be grown in rich, well-drained soil in full sunlight or partial shade. It does well when grown in a pot. If it is grown outdoor, it should be located in an area that does not receive a lot of wind. Whether grown in a pot or outdoor, allow the soil to dry a little in between waterings because damp soil will promote root rot (1). During hot summer weather, the curry leaf tree should not be placed in direct sunlight or the leaves can get sunburnt. Transplanting the tree into a bigger pot may be done after a year and the roots should be undisturbed. During cold winter months, the tree should be brought into the house. During summer and spring, the curry leaf tree should be given fertilizer once every 5 weeks. The berries that form can be plucked off to increase leaf growth. If the berries are left alone, they will turn into white flowers that have a strong sweet fragrance. If grown in a container, the container size should be increased every few years to accommodate the tree’s growth. There are three types of curry leaf trees: regular, dwarf, and gamthi. The regular type grows fast and is tall. The leaves from this plant are commonly sold in grocery stores. The dwarf type does not grow as tall, but it does spread out more. It has light green leaves that are longer than the regular curry leaf tree’s leaves. The gamthi type grows thick leaves, but it grows very slowly. This variety has the strongest aroma (2).
Culinary and Medicinal Uses
Curry leaves give off a citrus-like flavor when used fresh in dishes. When the leaves are cooked in oil, they release the most flavor. They go very well with vegetable, fish, seafood, coconut sauces, stews, and chutneys. (1). Curry leaves are used in ayurvedic medicine to control heart disease and treat infections as well as inflammations. The leaves are rich in antioxidants and vitamin C. They also have antimicrobial properties. Studies have shown that curry leaves can reduce cholesterol levels in animals. The leaves may also prevent Alzheimer’s disease because they have pro-cholinergic effects on mice that were fed curry leaves. They are also said to have anti-diabetic properties (3). Curry leaves are efficient at treating anemia because they contain iron and folic acid. Folic acid encourages the body to absorb iron. It also protects the liver from damaging due to drinking or eating fish (5).
Significance to Cultural Communities
The curry leaf tree is native to India. It is a staple in Indian and Sri Lankan cuisines. Limbolee oil can be extracted from fresh curry leaves. This oil is often used in the process of making soap in order to make the product scented. In Southeast Asia, the wood from the curry leaf tree is used for fuel (4). In Cambodia, the leaves are roasted and used in a soup called maju kreung. They are also used in Java for cooking gulai or lamb stew (6).
- "Murraya Koenigii." Missouri Botanical Garden. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2014. <http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=d441>.
- Cris. "How to Grow Curry Leaf." The Homestead Garden. N.p., 6 Jan. 2014. Web. 30 Oct. 2014. <http://www.thehomesteadgarden.com/howtogrowcurryleaf/>.
- Charles, Denys J. Antioxidant Properties of Spices, Herbs and Other Sources. N.p.: Springer Science & Business Media, n.d. Google Books. Springer Science & Business Media, 27 Nov. 2012. Web. 24 Oct. 2014. <http://books.google.com/books?id=Tz4Fa7r9wgIC&pg=PA275&lpg=PA275&dq=curry+leaf+alzheimers&source=bl&ots=yi9JTxp6Mg&sig=xxuDCcJasgPeQyL24rzjsgLyl6k&hl=en&sa=X&ei=flJSVOTyC5OVyAT7_oHQBQ&ved=0CFEQ6AEwCA#v=onepage&q=curry%20leaf%20alzheimers&f=false>.
- Eland, Sue C. "Murraya koenigii." Plant Biographies. N.p., 2008. Web. 14 Oct. 2014. <http://www.plantlives.com/docs/M/Murraya_koenigii.pdf>.
- Sampath, Pavitra. "10 Health Benefits of Kadi Patta or Curry Leaves." The Health Site. N.p., 14 Feb. 2014. Web. 30 Oct. 2014. <http://www.thehealthsite.com/diseases-conditions/10-health-benefits-of-kadi-patta-or-curry-leaves-p214/>.
- "Curry Leaves (Daun Salam Koja, Daun Temurui, Daun Kari)." Indonesia Eats. N.p., 26 Jan. 2012. Web. 30 Oct. 2014. <http://indonesiaeats.com/curry-leaves-daun-salam-koja-daun-temurui-daun-kari/>.