Curry Please



I really enjoyed my visit to Cornell Plantations this week, particularly the herb garden, which was still looking good after several hard frosts. Even in the relatively chilly November air, I was overpowered by scent as I passed one of the 17 theme beds.  This was clearly the "tussie mussie and nosegay" bed.

Particularly fragrant were the green santolina and the curry plant, Helichrysum italicum, which looks like lavender and smells like dinner–but isn't good to eat.

I remember, however, once buying a different herbaceous plant labelled as "curry plant" in a nursery that smelled similarly savory, but that had rounded little succulent leaves. I haven't identified that one yet.

And then there is the curry tree, Murraya koenigii, pictured above, which is native to India and actually is used in Indian cooking.  When I interviewed the great Indian cookbook writer Madhur Jaffrey, she was laughing at the lengths to which she'd gone–driving out to Jersey in order to meet the one not terribly professional guy offering it at the time–in order to obtain a curry tree to grow in a pot.  When we spoke it wasn't doing terribly well for her.  I remember her telling me about a few pathetic leaves hanging on. 

Maybe that's not an uncommmon experience, as this Atlantic blog post suggests.  Still, all risks involving dinner are worth taking, in my opinion.  I'm ordering a curry tree!  It can join my neglected potted rosemary, bay tree, and citrus trees that are dragged in and out of the house every year at some point.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Photo credit: Rantingsteve


  1. Monica, you got it! I just read that it’s also known as Indian borage. And, unlike curry plant, it’s good to cook with.

  2. Some herb books will tell you NOT to cook with it. I’ve never heard of anyone ever getting sick eating any Plectranthus species, it is a favorite of the Caribbean – but I have read where it contains some mild toxins.

  3. I got my curry leaf plant from Logees. First one I did kill, this one is still going…. and you just reminded me to water it! It is indeed worth repeat tries, as the market that sometimes has fresh curry leaves is too far away, doesn’t have them in stock when I want them for something specific, and if I just buy them I only use a few before they go bad in the fridge. I am keeping my fingers crossed that this one I can get through the winter. It will never look like the trees in your photo, though!

  4. This is my second winter with my curry leaf plant. Mine also came from Logees and it was a fine plant. Last year it did well for me, even producing some lovely white fragrant flowers. This year I have scale. Right now the plant resides in the bathroom and gets a shower now and then. It is doing a little better.It’s hard for a tropical plant that loves it hot and humid to tolerate my 65 degree winter dry environment, but where threr’s life there’s hope!

  5. I recently discovered a Lavender plant growing on the side of my house. I was very surprise but pleased to welcome it.

    Then it bloomed and guess what, the flowers were not lavender purple but yellow. Maybe it is Curry? And how did it get there?

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