What You Need to Know about Curry Leaves.
Curry leaf “Murraya koenigii” or “Bergera koenigii” is a versatile cooking spice known for its delightful flavor or aroma when added to a meal. It also goes by the names curry leaf tree, sweet neem, kadi patta. Curry leaf is obtained from Curry trees, scientifically known as Murraya koenigii. Curry leaf, a plant native to India, is called “karipatta” in the Hindi language. However, the name is different around the regions of India and the world at large.
Some people prefer to add the leaves to their meal; however, aside from the culinary application of curry leaf, it is also a plant of medical importance, impacting vitamins (A, B, C, and B2), Iron, calcium, with some added anti-inflammatory, and anti-microbial properties.
Curry leaves appear brilliant green during summer and spring – its blooming season. The leaves take the shape of a feather (Pinnate in nature), growing independent of their stem. The taste of curry leaves cannot be categorically stated; however, it impacts the citrus or lemongrass taste. Again, curry trees grow best in warm climates, which is why it is commonly found in tropical regions.
History and cultivation.
Research has shown that the history of curry leaves dates back to the 1st to 4th century A.D. The genus name is credited to Johann Andreas Murray (1740-1791), a medicine and botany professor and a one-time student of Linnaeus.
However, the flavoring agent – Curry leaf is common in India, Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia, Africa, and Pacific Islands, to mention a few. Generally, tropical regions of the world provide the best temperature/climate for the growth of the curry tree.
Typically, the leaves are small and pinnate, possessing an aroma or fragrance that affects Asian delicacies, especially when bruised or pounded. They grow tall, ranging from six to fifteen feet above sea level. Curry trees produce delicate white flowers that are inedible, green leaves, and a dark-pink fruit that resembles berries that hold the seeds.
It’s said that curry leaves are best enjoyed when used fresh; that is, when it is still exuding a brilliant green color, as compared to when it is dry and brown. Summer, spring, and fall are the blooming seasons of curry leaves.
Again, it grows abundantly in tropical and subtropical areas where the temperature is about twenty degrees celsius. The farmer’s soil – loamy soil is best for the yield of curry leaves, and good drainage and irrigation system is an additional advantage. Curry leaves can be grown by planting the seed or inserting the cuttings into warm and damp soil.
The seed method requires a nursery. To grow curry, leaves are made, the dark pink fruits are pulped, and the seed is sown in a nursery, where it is allowed to grow for the planting season.
Noticeably, the first harvest is due ten to twelve months after planting. While for the cutting, a part of the stem is prepared and inserted into the soil and allowed to grow – it begins to root three weeks after planting. Nonetheless, curry leaves can be grown at home using adequately mixed soil. Then, the stem or seed is inserted into the moist and damp potting soil.
How to grow curry leaf.
Growing curry trees entails considering the importance of soil, atmospheric, and water requirements in the development and maturation of the plant. For best yield, placing curry leaves in a windy atmosphere is inadvisable. Wind weakens the trunk and limbs of a plant when placed in such a position, ultimately resulting in its death.
Again, infertile soil, extremely high temperature, and poor irrigation significantly impact the plant as they’re not known to thrive in an arid environment. Sunlight is essential for the growth of the curry tree, in turn, the leaves. A soil with a pH of 6.4 to 6.9 is ideal for germinating curry trees. Regular watering is essential for the plant’s survival, especially in the first two to three months of planting.
However, heavy watering must be regulated to mitigate the plant’s growth. The plant prefers well-drained, dried soil. During winter, the curry leaves are forced to shed their leaves, keeping them dormant in anticipation of its blooming season. They are frost tender but thrive in a hot, humid climate.
Propagating curry leaves.
Propagation of curry leaves is in two folds; cutting and seeds.
- Cutting is the easiest means of propagating curry leaves. It is achieved using a sharp knife to cut off a fresh stem about four inches. Remove the leaves, then insert them into a soilless medium to grow. Water the plant appropriately and be careful not to flood the plant pot. The medium should be moist and under a bright spot against direct sunlight. It would take about three weeks for germination to begin. Water the plant regularly – keep it moist and warm.
- Seeds methods are tedious to rare; therefore, this method is not often recommended.
Pruning Kadi Patta.
According to plant physiology, the apical bud suppresses the side bud; however, when it is pinched off, it gives room for more development, making the plant green and radiant. During winter, pruning your curry plant may be ineffective as it will naturally lose leaves during the colder season.
Therefore, an ideal time to prune your curry plant is when it is still fresh and green, as in the summer, spring, and fall; this gives room to even rapid growth and replenishment of fallen or weakened leaves. Furthermore, the frequency of pruning is pertinent.
Maintenance is vital to the development and sustenance of the plant. Maintaining constant growth requires changing pot and soil, especially those that grow their curry plant indoors. This is important because the growth requirement skyrockets as the plant increases in size.
Therefore, the growth may be stunted without adding more nutrients. In addition, changing the pot from a smaller one to a bigger one is vital because its root increases when the plant increases in size.
Hence, a bigger pot is needed to accommodate the rapidly developing roots and plants. It is generally recommended you change the soil and pot every year. And the best time to re-pot is the early spring. However, it is worth noting that the curry leaf plant’s root doesn’t like to be disturbed, so the owner must be patient. At the same time, it starts adapting to the new environment.
There are three main types or varieties of curry leaves: regular, dwarf, and miniature. These varieties exist because of their differences in size, shape, and style of growth.
- The dwarf curry leaf is short, ranging from 25cm to 30cm in length. They are best suited for in-house cultivation as they can be easily conveyed in and out of the house because of their size and length. They are best suited for ornamental purposes rather than regular culinary reasons. Amongst the two other varieties, the dwarf curry leaf has the largest leaf.
- The regular curry leaves are the prim and proper ones in the supermarket. Rapid-growing plants measure about six to fifteen feet. Their leaves are small and green, with white flowers and inedible fruits.
- Miniature curry leaf is also known as gamthi curry leaf. It is the smaller version of the dwarf curry measuring 15cm to 20 cm in height.
- Seeds methods are tedious to rare; therefore, this method is not often recommended.
Health benefits of Sweet Neem.
As already established, beyond the delectable flavor and aroma that curry leaf imparts on our food, consuming it has some outstanding health benefits, namely;
- Potent antioxidant. Research has shown that curry leaves contain some compound that helps combat oxidative stress, thereby protecting our cardiovascular system, kidney, and nervous systems, to mention a few.
- Again, research has shown the anti-mutagenic properties of curry leaves. Curry leaves are made up of compounds that inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells. Flavonoids are the compound of interest because of their known role in mitigating the growth of cancer cells. The leaf protects the body from the colon, breast, and even cervical cancer.
- Consuming curry leaves makes the level of cholesterol and triglycerides plummet. Thereby eliminating the risk factors for heart diseases or dysfunction.
- Laxatives are agents that aid digestion and prevent constipation. These laxatives are contained in curry leaves, a property that makes them instrumental in treating stomach ailments like diarrhea. Carbazole alkaloids, found in curry leaves, help control diarrhea. To treat stomach ailments, curry leaves can be consumed by squeezing the juice out of the leaves or by consuming the leaves as a whole. Conversely, carbazole alkaloids also play a role in weight loss based on their ability to control weight loss. Curry leaves can be consumed to control weight gain.
- Infectious pathogens cause diseases and dysfunction all over the world. The antibacterial property of curry leaves cannot be overemphasized. Examples of microorganisms that curry leaves can easily obliterate are staphylococcus species and E.coli. Nonetheless, curry leaves contain a compound called Linalool. This compound confers the leaf with the ability to produce the delightful scent it’s known for. Also, Linalool has some antibacterial properties.
- Curry leaves play a role in mitigating diabetes increase as it confers additional protection to the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas by mopping up free radicals and damages caused by them.
- Vitamin A is a common vitamin that consumers of curry leaves receive. It is important for eye health; it boosts the immune system and overall cell development.
Fertilizers are nutrients that farmers use to support the growth of their crops or plants. Essentially, the curry leaf has three major nutrients required for the growth and development of all of its parts-the flowers, leaves, fruit, stem, and roots. These nutrients are called the N-P-K for short. Which stands for Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K). the nutrients mentioned above support the growth of the plant in different ways. Therefore, the grower must understand each N-P-K’s unique contribution to their crops or plant.
Nitrogen – nitrogen is essential for the conversion of energy from sunlight to sugar through a process called photosynthesis. The brilliant green colors on the plant are all the effects or roles that nitrogen plays in the plant’s growth. For example, a curry leaf deficient in nitrogen would look pale and have stunted growth as seen during the winter period-the non-blooming season of the curry tree plant.
Phosphorus – phosphorus is essential for photosynthesis. In addition, phosphorus is necessary for the development of the roots, and developed root systems will significantly impact the production of fruits, flowers, and foliage.
Potassium– adequate potassium levels confers the curry tree plant to the ability against pests and drought. The nutrients mentioned above are the major nutrients that a curry tree plant would need to thrive; however, some nutrients are also crucial as they constitute the minor requirements of the plant example, iron, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and to mention a few. Again, fertilizers for curry leaf plant can be grouped into two categories, namely;
- Homemade and organic fertilizers
- Commercially prepared fertilizers
Homemade and Organic Fertilizers.
Homemade fertilizers, as the name implies, are the compost that contains nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium that improves the yield and development of the curry leave plant and can be gotten from home; in addition to the significant nutrients mentioned above, they contain a substantial amount of the minor nutrients. Examples of common homemade fertilizers are;
- Rice water – as shocking as it may seem, it contains a tremendous amount of starch and minerals like nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, and the likes that are imperative to the growth of the curry leaves. Therefore, please save your rice water in a clean container and apply it to the root of the plant. Do this regularly, every week.
- Buttermilk – this is the mixture of butter and milk. And this mixture is rich in nitrogen and phosphorus. A nutrient that keeps your plant fresh and robust. The acidic environment is pertinent for the growth of curry leaves, and buttermilk contributes significantly. To prepare this, take two to three teaspoons of buttermilk and add to a liter of water; mix and pour into a container that enables spraying. It is fast and easy to prepare.
- Eggshell is a common type of homemade fertilizer; it impacts the curry leaves plant with strength for its root as it is rich in calcium. The eggshell should be applied to the base of the plant and mixed, then watered mildly. This can be done every two weeks.
- Worm humus – worms are often referred to as farmers’ friends. The decomposed organic substances fast-track the absorption of nutrients by the plant.
Commercially Prepared fertilizers.
These are industrially produced fertilizers. For industrially produced fertilizers, their N.P.K. the gradient is in ratio. For instance, N.P.K. 20-20-20 represents twenty percent of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. The most common industrially produced fertilizers are;
- Iron Sulfate
- Osmocote fertilizer
Common Pest and Plant Disease.
A Myriad of pests debilitates the curry tree. They ruin the brilliant green color of the curry leaf by forming a spot (hole) example, the Phyllosticta leaf spot. Some pests cause defoliation, leave a drop, and also cause damage to the root and stems of the plant, for instance, citrus psyllids and mealybug, while some introduce fungus to the plants like aphids.
Curry leaves are a common condiment in Asian cuisine. It’s known for its delightful aroma. They’re majorly three varieties of curry leaf plants, namely, the gamthi, regular, and dwarf curry leaf plants. The difference is in the size and shape of the leaf. The regular curry leaf is characterized by its height of about six to fifteen feet tall.
Curry leaf plants are common in tropical and subtropical regions. They thrive in soil with an acidic pH of 6.4 to 6.9. Curry leaves have both culinary and health benefits. Curry leaves are compounds that improve vision, sugar levels, and cell reproduction and development.
Frequently Asked Questions (F.A.Q.s)
Is curry leaf an indoor plant?
Curry leaves are both indoor and outdoor plants. The dwarf variety of curry leaves is best used as an ornament.
Does curry leaf need full sun?
No. Curry leaves do not require direct sunlight; however, they thrive in warm and humid environments.
Is curry leaf plant edible?
Yes, they are edible. They make up the majority of Asian cuisine.
Is it good to grow curry leaves at home?
Yes. It’s aesthetically appealing and brings ease of use and care because of its proximity to the owner.