If you've ever eaten Indian food you must have noticed a peculiar flavor. And the peculiar flavor comes from little green leaves that were added to the food, probably just before serving it. I'm talking about curry leaves: one of the essential ingredients in almost any type of Indian food. Let us see what else we can get to know about these leaves in this article.
Before we get to know the leaves, let's see something about the plant that gives us these leaves. Given below is some basic information about the plant.
- The scientific name of the plant is Murraya koenigii.
- It belongs to the Rutaceae family.
- It grows well in tropical and sub-tropical regions and is native to India.
- The tree is generally short, growing to a height of 6-7 meters only.
- The stem is quite thick.
- Branches are thin and delicate.
- They bear pinnate leaves, each stalk having between 10-20 leaflets.
- The average size of the leaves is somewhere between 3-5 cms.
- The flowers of this tree are a pale shade of white and have a sweet fragrance.
- The plant also bears some berries that are black in color.
- The berries are edible but their seeds are not.
- The tree is cultivated within vegetable gardens in many homes in India.
- It is easy to grow in moist, well-drained soil. But it can be grown even in semi-moist soil.
- It is grown most widely in India (especially South India) and Sri Lanka.
What are Curry Leaves Used For
Now that we know about the plant, let us move forward to the leaves and its uses. Curry leaves are very commonly mistaken with bay leaves or neem leaves. In fact, they look so similar to neem leaves, that they are called sweet neem leaves in many places. Let us see some of the most common uses of the curry leaves.
The most common use of these leaves is as a food additive in cuisine. Almost every Indian food dish begins with a sauté of curry leaves, mustard, cumin seeds, and other spices. This is what is called a 'tadka'. And curry leaves is what gives the food item its distinct flavor. Apart from the sauté, they can be used for garnishing the food item. Another popular way of using curry leaves is by separately frying it in oil or ghee, together with other spices, for a few seconds and adding it onto the dish at the end, just before serving. If you're wondering how to store curry leaves, here's the answer.
The best suggestion would be to use fresh leaves, straight from the plant (or market). However, you can store them in the refrigerator for not more than a couple of days before using them. The moisture will be lost if stored for more than that and the dried leaves will not release the flavor that the fresh leaves would. No use of adding them then, is there?
Curry leaves are also known for their medicinal uses. For instance, it has been observed that the use of this herb can curb diabetes and sometimes even prevent hereditary diabetes. Another benefit of curry leaves is that they can be consumed with buttermilk to soothe digestive disorders like mild diarrhea. Another plus point is that it is a great herb for hair care. Adding curry leaves to warm coconut oil helps to fortify the roots of the hair. Even oral consumption helps to keep hair strong. They are a rich source of vitamins, carbohydrates, and proteins. They are also effective against cholesterol. A paste of curry leaves is anti-inflammatory in nature and can act as an effective salve for minor injuries and bruises.
Many people use the powder of curry leaves as a substitute. However, this does not render the same flavor as the leaves. Another substitute for curry leaves can be a bay leaf or basil leaves. The flavor may not match perfectly though. So the best option would be to grow a small herb garden in your own backyard and have a constant supply of fresh leaves!