Curry plant ID.

Newsgroups: alt.folklore.herbs
Subject: Curry Plant???
From: (Nancy Roberts)
Date: 2 May 94 09:28:01 MDT

I recently picked up a plant at the local hardware store that is called a "Curry Plant". I've never seen one before, but it says that the leaves can be used for flavoring meat dishes, etc. The spice Curry (as I know it) is a mixture of cumin, coriander, and tumeric, plus (perhaps) others. The plant does smell like curry. Anyone know what it is?


From: (G. Karmarkar)

I looked up Curry plant in my Indian Vegetarian Cookery (by Jack Santa Maria) and he says and I quote

Curry Leaves (kari patta): The pungent aromatic leaves of *Chalcas Koenigii* taste like garam masala. Thrown in whole or broken, they give a characteristic flavor to many South Indian dishes. In Tamil the leaves are referred to as karuvepila, in Maharashtra as kadhi limba, in Hindi as katha nim. They may be dried if purchased fresh and stored in an airtight jar till needed.

Is this indeed the same as "Helichrysum augustifolium" plant?

Thanks in advance


From: (cosmic.coyote)

> I recently picked up a plant at the local hardware store

I too have found this plant and it was quite nicely described with a botanical. Unfortunately, the only reference I could find (with the help of a friend who has a much bigger collection of herbals) is as follows:

Curry Plant Helichrysum angustifolium

A good culinary--the British "dote on it in cream cheese for sandwiches" resents high humidity, so best grown in containers in our area

When I found it I was immediately reminded of the aroma of a curry powder that is quite mild and agreeable to being augmented toward either a sweet or hot curry. The reference which states that the plant should be grown in containers is written for southeast Texas. If you live in an arid climate you should have no problems in putting this plant in the ground.

Hope this helped you somewhat.

From: (Gail)

> I recently picked up a plant at the local hardware store

_Helichrysum angustifolium_....a perennial composite..not used in curry powder, but it IS a nice culinary herb.

From: (Information Services)

I've been following with great interest this entire thread regarding curry plants/leaves, since it's a question I've long held myself (what exactly do "curry leaves" come from, and where does one get them).

This is the conclusion I've come to, based on the previous posts on the topic, and my own independent research:

The "curry plant" is NOT the same plant which yields kari patta, or "curry leaves". Although the curry plant is widely grown as an herb, and does smell like curry, it is not the same plant which has for centuries been used on the asian sub-continent in the preparation of curry dishes. The curry plant is actually "Helichrysum Angustifolium", of the family "Compositae", and originated in either Africa or Australia.

The plant which DOES yield "curry leaves" is actually "Murraya Koenigii", of the family "Rutaceae", and has been described by various sources as being, "an Asiatic shrub with pungent leaves". I've seen a number of Indian cookbooks which equate "kari patta" (and it's other dialectic names) with Murraya Koenigii, and there is even a listing in Webster's Unabridged Dictionary for "curry leaves" which also names it as such (although there is no listing for "curry plant").

If this assessment is correct, two questions then arise;

  1. Where the heck does one get seeds or seedlings for Murraya Koenigii?
  2. Since Helichrysum Angustifolium does smell like curry, and is edible, can it be adequately substituted for Murraya Koenigii? I've never tasted Helichrysum, so I don't know if the flavor is similar.

Anyone have any insight? If Helichrysum is all I can get (and I've found a few nurseries in my area which do stock it), I'll use it...but I at least want to know if the flavor will be anywhere near what I'm used to before I invest any time or effort in growing it. On the other hand, I would prefer to obtain the "real thing".

btw, I've accumulated quite a following of individuals who have a shared interest in this topic, several of them Indian expatriates, so any help that anyone out there can offer will be widely appreciated by many others as well.



From: (Ken Brown)

Helichrysum angustifolium vs. Murraya koenigii

You can get Kari in any Asian shop round here but the people selling it tend not to use the taxonomic names! - thanks for this Richard - I never heard of Murraya before. I have read that it is the leaves of the neem tree, which doesn't help much. Cookery books suggest either bay or lemon grass or even basil as a substitute if you can't get Kari - which indicates that it doesn't have a "curry" taste, unlike Helichrysum.

AFAIK both "Kari" and "curry" are from a Tamil word which just means "sauce".

H. angustifolium is *not* a substitute for Kari, & not a tradtional flavour in curry. As far as I know it is edible but it is not a common flavouring at all. Kari is a traditional flavouring in Asia but not in curry.

Curry, the food, contains a mixture of flavourings in which Kari the plant is not particularly important. I'm a newcomer to this group & I guess you've all discussed curry before - but just in case :-) ...

... the main flavouring ingredient of food called "curry" is garam masala which is a mixture of spices typically containing cumin, coriander (seeds) and cardamom together with perhaps cloves or nutmeg or cinnamon or even pomegranate seeds or cassia. And perhaps bay, which is where we started!

To get what is called "curry" here in England you add some hot spice (true pepper, or perhaps chilli) and turmeric, garlic, salt and anything else you fancy to this. Typical ingredients include mace, mustard, ginger, kari (!), paprika, fennel, fenugreek, sesame, lemon grass, mint, mango, sesame....

Of course "curry" is really an British name for any highly spiced food in an Indian style - it doesn't appear in many Indian cookbooks. And it can contain any spice you like (and probably most of those you don't).

From: (Information Services)

>H. angustifolium is *not* a substitute for Kari, & not a tradtional flavour

Ken is correct in that what is commonly called the "curry plant", and is in reality "Helichrysum Angustifolium", is definitely not a substitute for "curry leaves", which is "Murraya Koenigii".

I had an opportunity today to visit a nursery which stocks Helichrysum, and the taste is nothing like kari patta. The plant itself doesn't resemble kari patta at all; the leaves being greyish, silvery green, and very thin. Although it does smell somewhat like curry, the taste is more reminscient of something you'd find in a wild garden salad. Also, it does seem to be much more of a true herb than a woody plant, and I can't see it growing more than 30-40 inches tall whereas, as Ken has confirmed, the Murraya can reach heights over 10 feet.

I've been in touch with Richter's herb farm in Canada, following a suggestion from someone in an earlier post, and have found that, although they are familiar with Murraya, and have been attempting to propagate it, they have so far been unsuccessful in doing so. Apparently it is a difficult plant to strike from cuttings, a finding with which I concur, based on my own attempts to root the fresh slips I've purchased from local markets (and I've heard from others with similar experiences...also, everyone admits that the markets they buy from refuse to sell them mature plants or tell them where they may obtain one!)

So, if ANYONE can find a source for Murraya Koenigii, PLEASE post it!! There are many of us out here who would love to possess one!!



From: (Gail)

> I looked up Curry plant in my Indian Vegetarian Cookery Curry Leaves (kari patta): The pungent aromatic leaves of *Chalcas Koenigii* taste like garam masala. Is this indeed the same as "Helichrysum augustifolium" plant?

Nope--_Murraya_ (_Chalcas_) _koenigii_ is a small tree in the Rue family. It grows wild in Pakistan, India, Ceylon and the Andaman Islands and is cultivated throughout Southeast Asia. It grows to 20 feet and has compound leaves, fragrant flowers and edible, peppery , 2-seeded fruits. The leaves are commonly used to flavor curries and chutneys, but not in commercial curry powder. The dried leaves are sold in the U.S. in many Asian stores.