Yesterday afternoon I spent some time with one of our neighbours. Prakesh and his wife Anu are lovely. They live just down the street from us and are also keen gardeners. One day Prakesh came to talk to me while I was working in the garden and a friendship blossomed. It has been a long time since I have seen them. I had been meaning to catch up for a while now but then Covid intervened and social interaction became impossible.
As is common when visiting an avid gardener, you don’t leave empty handed. Prakesh kindly gave me some boda bean seeds (cowpeas) to grow in the garden this summer. He also gave me a curry leaf plant, much to my delight. Prakesh had a lot of curry leaf seedlings growing in his greenhouse. I get a lot of requests for curry leaf plants from customers in my nursery. They are very hard to find and take a long time to mature. It’s not a plant that I know much about, so I thought it would make a good topic for a blog post.
Curry leaf is a sub-tropical shrub native to India and Sri Lanka. The botanical name is Murraya koenigii. Its leaves are used extensively in cooking throughout Asia, including curries and soups. It has white flowers throughout the year. Curry leaf plants do best in rich, free-draining soil.
Plants can be propagated from seed. Prakesh only had a couple of seeds spare as he sowed them all himself, so I’m going to have to wait for my plant to go to seed and collect some, which may take a few years. Prakesh also has an enormous curry leaf tree growing outside in his garden and he gave me a cutting, so I’m also going to try and propagate a plant that way.
Curry leaf plants do well in full sun. Especially when they are young, the curry leaf plant is very frost-sensitive, so it’s best to keep them inside a greenhouse over winter. After several years, it is fine to leave them outside all year round, at least in Auckland.
From my understanding, curry leaf plants can be grown in containers, which is what I’m going to try doing because space is so scarce in our garden.
For on-going use, it’s best to have an established plant outside and pick the leaves fresh as you need them. The leaves can be dried and stored for later use, but the taste is inferior.
Seeds must be ripe and fresh to germinate, so I’m going to germinate the seeds which Prakesh gave me on my heat pad today. I’m also going to dip the cutting he gave me in a bit of rooting hormone and plant it in some potting mix to see if it takes. I’ve already put the plant he gave me in our greenhouse, which I hope will over-winter. I will post an update regarding the progress of the curry leaf plant in our garden in the future.