Updated: Aug 7, 2019
Have you ever wondered what gives Indian food that authentic spin? Curry leaves walk into your kitchen.... You can pick them up in your ethnic store or buy them online mainly dried and can grow your own plant at home. The leaves are highly aromatic and grow throughout Asia in tropical climates, yet can be grown inside your home as a house plant. They are a part of the same family as citrus fruits. Their glossy green leaves give a unique flavor all of their own. There is a citrus element, along with something else that’s hard to put your finger on -- some say asafoetida, and others anise. In her book Classic Indian Cooking, Julie Sahni describes the leaves as having “a bitterish taste and a sweetish, pungent aroma almost like lemon grass."
You may lose some of the quality and aroma in the dried leaves so try to get fresh. Store your fresh curry leaves in a plastic bag and they will last for two weeks. You may also freeze them after you have removed the stalks as they maintain more freshness than sun dried leaves. In use they are very much like using a bay leaf in cooking so you may only need 2 or 3 leaves per dish like dhal or rice.
In Ayurvedic medicine, curry leaves are believed to have several medicinal properties such as anti-diabetic, antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic and hepato-protective (capability to protect the liver from damage) properties. The roots are used for treating body aches and the bark is used for snake bite relief. Some of the everyday benefits are that the high antioxidant properties of the plant make it great at reducing oxidative stress making it high at free radical scavenging activity. The high vitamin level of A, B, C and E makes it also great at reducing cholesterol and diabetes as well as promotes growth of hair and benefits eye sight. Mildly laxative it can be made into a paste with a squeeze of lime and added to milk to take as a drink. For another Ayurveda use you may infuse it in oil and add to the hair and face to stop premature aging.
Here is a recipe to make your own spice mix with curry leaves:
Madras curry powder
Makes 1 cup
2 tbsp whole coriander seeds
1tbsp whole cumin seeds
1tsp fenugreek seeds
3- to 4-inch piece of ceylon cinnamon
10 to 15 whole green cardamom pods
1tsp whole black pepper
5 to 6 mild Kashmiri chiles powder
20 to 30 small curry leaves
2 tbsp ground turmeric