“The first meal my husband ever made me was a chicken curry. I have never tasted anything so delicious in my life.” - Lesley Nicol
The curry tree (Murraya koenigii or Bergera koenigii) is a tropical to sub-tropical tree in the family Rutaceae (the rue family, which includes rue, citrus, and satinwood), which is native to India and Sri Lanka. The species name commemorates the botanist Johann König. The genus Murray commemorates Swedish physician and botanist Johann Andreas Murray who died in 1791. The leaves of this tree are used in many dishes in India, Sri Lanka, and neighbouring countries. Often used in curries, the leaves are generally called by the name ‘curry leaves’, although they are also literally ‘sweet neem leaves’ in most Indian languages (as opposed to ordinary neem leaves which are very bitter and in the family Meliaceae, not Rutaceae).
It is a small tree, growing 4–8.7 m tall, with a trunk up to 81 cm diameter. The aromatic leaves are pinnate, with 11–21 leaflets, each leaflet 2–4 cm long and 1–2 cm broad. The plant produces small white flowers, which can self-pollinate to produce small shiny-black berries containing a single, large viable seed. Though the berry pulp is edible (with a sweet but medicinal flavour) in general, neither the pulp nor seed is used for culinary purposes. Leaves can be harvested from home-raised plants as the tree is fairly easily grown in warmer areas of the world, or in containers where the climate is not supportive outdoors. Seeds must be ripe and fresh to plant; dried or shriveled fruits are not viable. One can plant the whole fruit, but it is best to remove the pulp before planting in potting mix that is kept moist but not wet. Stem cuttings can be also used for propagation.
The leaves are highly valued as seasoning in Southern and West-coast Indian cooking, and Sri Lankan cooking especially in curries, usually fried along with the chopped onion in the first stage of the preparation. They are also used to make thoran, vada, rasam and kadhi. In their fresh form, they have a short shelf life and do not keep well in the refrigerator. They are also available dried, though the aroma is largely inferior. Although most commonly used in curries, leaves from the curry tree can be used in many other dishes to add flavour. In Cambodia, Khmer toast the leaves in an open flame or roast it until crispy and then crush it into a soured soup dish called maju krueng.
The leaves of Murraya koenigii are also used as in Ayurvedic medicine. Because of its aromatic characteristic properties, the plant has uses in soap making, body lotions, potpourri, scent, air fresheners, body fragrance, perfume, bath and massage oils, aromatherapy, towel scenting, spas and health clinics, incense, facial steams or hair treatments. In the absence of tulsi leaves, curry leaves are used for rituals, such as pujas.
In the language of flowers, a leafy branch included in bouquets signifies: “Your exotic charms have me in thrall”. A gift of curry tree flowers means: “I have succumbed to your inner beauty.”
This post is part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme,
and also part of the Friday Greens meme.