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Curry Leaf

Curry Leaf

Dear Friends-
Kind greetings!

It seemed appropriate today to offer a newsletter on Curry Leaf Essential Oil as today we had a fine Indian lunch prepared by Suzanne. Since we both went to school in India and have lived and visited there many times we have a fondness for Indian food(although a bit less spicy than is normally found in India itself) One of the delicious ingredients in many Indian dishes is fresh leaves from the tree Murrya koenigii(which also also has supremely fragrant white flowers) This condiment is little known out side India and neighboring countries as it is best if one picks the fresh leaves directly from the tree and puts them into whatever dish they are preparing.

The aroma which radiates from them is rich, complex, spicy-green herbal. It does bear some resemblance to the so-called curry powders which the British created using turmeric, coriander and other spices but it remains in a world of its own because of its delicate lively freshness. In the newsletter you will find a more in depth description of it. You can find the oil distilled form the leaves on the web site at:http://www.whitelotusaromatics.com/prices/eoc.html

Some of you have requested more information about the Citrus Essence Oils i.e. essential oils distilled from the juices of tangerine, sweet orange, and lemon(lime should arrive later this month as well) This is how they are distilled. When for instance sweet orange juice is squeezed and then is further concentrated in a vacuum distillation unit to produce the orange juice concentrate, the receiver with the condensed juice waters also has a good amount of essential oil. This is gently distilled off producing the "essence" oil. These "essence" oils are lovely reasonably priced aromatic delights.

I am beginning to go through old newsletters and update them starting with the very first one on Ylang. I am adding images to the newsletter as well as some new information. You may enjoy revisiting old newsletters from time to time to see what they may have to offer. It is a huge project as those who have visited the newsletter archives in the last week or two. The initial thrust was simply to get the newsletters up and now I shall go back and freshen them up a bit. So far I have worked on updating newsletters of Geranium, Neroli, Sandalwood, Vetiver, Ylang and Frangipani

Another project that will take place within the next few months is having around 1000 of the best images of my aromatic adventures in India scanned and put on the web site for all of you to use free of charge. If you have not learned how to capture images from the internet to use on your websites then you will need to learn to do that but with a little effort that can be done and then you can enliven your pages with a wonderful array of aromatic subjects related to India.It will can a wealth of images of the aromatic plants of India; their harvest, transportation, distillation etc. It should help give a deeper insight into what has gone into the Fragrant Harvest Project.

Friendly regards,
Christopher and Suzanne

Curry leaf - plant profile

Curry leaf, Indian bay, Indian curry tree (English)
Surabhi-nimbu (Sanskrit)
Kathnim, mitha neem, kurry patta, kari patta, gandhela, barsanga (Hindu)
Barsanga, kariaphulli (Bengal)
Goranimb, kadhilimbdo (Gujarat)
Karivempu, karuveppilei, kattuveppilei, kariveppilai (Tamil)
Narasingha, bishahari (Assam)

Botanical name: Murraya koenigii
Family: Rutaceae, the orange and lemon family.

The Curry Tree or Curry-leaf Tree (Murraya koenigii; syn. Bergera koenigii, Chalcas koenigii) is a tropical to sub-tropical tree in the family Rutaceae, which is native to India.

It is a small tree, growing 4-6 m tall, with a trunk up to 40 cm diameter. The leaves are pinnate, with 11-21 leaflets, each leaflet 2-4 cm long and 1-2 cm broad. The flowers are small white, and fragrant. The small black, shiny berries are claimed to be edible, but their seeds are poisonous.

Curry leaf - history

The curry leaf tree is native to India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the Andaman Islands. Later spread by Indian migrants, they now grow in other areas of the world where Indian immigrants settled. Widely cultivated, the leaves are particularly associated with South Indian cuisines.

Curry leaf trees are naturalized in forests and waste land throughout the Indian subcontinent except in the higher parts of the Himalayas. From the Ravi river in Pakistan its distribution extends eastwards towards Assam in India and Chittagong in Bangladesh, and southwards to Tamil Nadu in India. The plants were spread to Malaysia, South Africa and Réunion Island with South Asian immigrants.

The use of curry leaves as a flavoring for vegetables is described in early Tamil literature dating back to the 1st to 4th centuries AD. Its use is also mentioned a few centuries later in Kannada literature. Curry leaves are still closely associated with South India where the word 'curry' originates from the Tamil 'kari' for spiced sauces. An alternative name for curry leaf throughout India is kari-pattha. Today curry leaves are cultivated in India, Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia, Australia, the Pacific Islands and in Africa as a food flavoring.


Curry Leaf--Food

Curry leaves are extensively used in South India and Sri Lanka. They are particularly used in South India cooking to provide a flavoring for curries, vegetable, fish and meat dishes, soups (rasams), pickles, butter milk preparations, chutneys, scrambled eggs and curry powder blends.

They are also becoming available from Indian shops in the West.

They are mainly used fresh, but are also used dried or powdered. For some recipes, the leaves are oven-dried or toasted immediately before use. Another common technique is short frying in butter or oil. Since South Indian cuisine is dominantly vegetarian, curry leaves seldom appear in non-vegetarian food; the main applications are thin lentil or vegetable curries and stuffings for samosas. Because of their soft texture, they are not always removed before serving.

In India the leaves are sold in markets still attached to the stem. In Europe they are generally sold as dried leaves but some are imported fresh.

Curry Leaf--Main constituents
Fresh leaves are rich in an essential oil, but the exact amount depends besides freshness and genetic strain also on the extraction technique. Typical figures run from 0.5 to 2.7%.

The following aroma components have been identified in curry leaves of Sri Lanka (in parentheses, the content in mg/kg fresh leaves): β-caryophyllene (2.6 ppm), β-gurjunene (1.9), β-elemene (0.6), β-phellandrene (0.5), β-thujene (0.4), α-selinene (0.3), β-bisabolene (0.3), furthermore limonene, β-trans-ocimene and β-cadinene (0.2 ppm). (Phytochemistry, 21, 1653, 1982)

Newer work has shown a large variability of the composition of the essential oil of curry leaves. In North Indian plants, monoterpenes prevail (β-phellandrene, α-pinene, β-pinene), whereas South Indian samples yielded sesquiterpenes: β-caryophyllene, aromadendrene, α-selinene. (Flavour and Fragrance Journal, 17, 144, 2002

"Curry leaves are extensively used in Southern India and Sri Lanka (and are absolutely necessary for the authentic flavour), but are also of some importance in Northern India. Together with South Indian immigrants, curry leaves reached Malaysia, South Africa and Réunion island. Outside the Indian sphere of influence, they are rarely found.

Ever since I first tasted fresh curry leaves many years ago, I have been in love with their tantalizing aroma and flavour. If I recall correctly, my first time was in the ubiquitous coconut chutney that I tasted while visiting South India’s temple town of Trivandrum. We ate dosa, idli, sambar and coconut chutney every day for a week, and although by the end I couldn't bear to face another idli or dosa, I still devoured bowls of coconut chutney laced with the fresh aromatic leaves.

The thin, shiny, dark-green leaves of the South-East Asian tree Murraya koenigii are as important to Asian food as bay leaves are to European. But the two should not be substituted. Curry leaves are highly aromatic when fresh, and their unmistakable aromatic taste is quite unique. Dried leaves are inferior, but sometimes that is all that is available. Personally I feel that if you don’t have curry leaves, either fresh or dry, there is no acceptable substitute.

Used especially in South Indian kitchens, curry leaves are generally sauteed in oil with mustard seeds and asafetida and added to dals, fresh coconut chutney or vegetable dishes. I always strip the leaves from their stalk before frying, and sometimes tear and crush them between my fingers to release more of their essential oils.

When I cook, I sometimes throw in whole sprigs of leaves still attached to their branches, and then retrieve them before serving the dish. Either way, when the leaves are fried in hot oil, a customary way to use them, remember to stand back as they will crackle violently as soon as they hit the oil."

Curry Leaf--Other Uses
The shiny-black fruits are liked both by children and adults. As revealed by the chemical composition of the fruits, they are very nutritious. The leaves are used as a spice in different curries and impart a very good flavour to the preparations. These fruits have also many medicinal properties.

The branches of Murraya koenigii (L.) Spreng. are very popular for cleaning the teeth as datun and are said to strengthen the gums and the teeth.

This plant is quite ornamental due to its compound leaves. It can, therefore, be used as a hedge and as an ornamental shrub.