Curry leaves are not commonly used in South African curries, perhaps contrary to popular belief. The aromatic flavour of local dishes usually comes from turmeric, chilli, cloves, cumin, coriander, garlic and so on. But, the subtly delicious flavour of curry leaves is used quite often in Indian and Thai cooking. They have the best flavour when they are fresh, not dried, and can be added directly to soups, stews and sauces.
These leaves have fibre, carbohydrates, copper, magnesium, phosphorous, antioxidants, nicotinic acid, iron, calcium, amino acids, flavonoids, and vitamins A, B and C.
PLEASE NOTE: The fruit of the curry leaf tree is edible, but the seeds are poisonous and need to be removed before you eat the fruit.
Position – Plant your pretty curry leaf tree in full sun. However, if you are transplanting a tree that has not been used to full sun, opt for a site with dappled or partial sun as it will not easily adjust to getting more than six hours of sun a day otherwise. They do well in hot, humid conditions and suffer when temperatures dip below about 18 degrees Celsius.
Size – As far as trees go, this is a relatively small one. At maturity, it will be between 1.8 to 4.5 metres tall. In some cases, they will reach a height of up to 6 metres. It will have a spread of about 1.2 to 3.6 metres.
Soil Type – The curry leaf tree needs a well-draining soil that has a slightly acidic pH. Add sand and well-rotted manure to your soil to achieve a healthier, better-draining ground.
Mulch – Mulch is always great for keeping weeds away and for retaining moisture in the soil. In the case of curry leaf trees, it only really becomes essential in cold conditions, when it protects the roots from frost bite.
Watering – Water your tree once a week during autumn, winter and spring. When it begins to heat up for summer, increase your watering to ensure that the soil never becomes too dry. This might mean daily watering, depending on the weather. During the cooler months, give it less water so that the soil never becomes waterlogged, which will cause root rot.
Fertilising – Just a little liquid fertiliser once a month should be enough for your curry leaf tree to thrive. This tree is prone to a lack of iron. So, when you fertilise it every month, add a teaspoon of iron sulphate. This will yield some impressive foliage.
Pruning – Simply pinch or snip dead leaves and branches off your tree every spring to keep your plant healthy and strong. If you feel your tree isn’t doing well, you may want to prune it in this way more often.
Harvesting – Pluck fresh leaves off your tree to add to your dishes for a deliciously aromatic dish. The fresh leaves are tastier than the dry ones, so it’s best just to pick them as you need them. However, the more leaves you pick, the more your plant will grow.