The curry leaf is an essential ingredient of Indian and South East Asian cuisine. Curry leaves gives a strong citrusy aromatic scent and a slightly bitter yet fresh taste to your dish. The aroma itself will tantalize your palate and whet your appetite. The botanical name of the curry tree is Murraya Koenigii Spreng and it belongs to the Rutaceae family. It is a decidous tree that grows well in tropical to sub-tropical climate. As it is a key ingredient in curries, the leaves are named “curry leaves”, though they are also translated as “sweet neem leaves” in most Indian languages.
The useful parts of this plant are the leaves, root and the bark.The leaves when heated or fried, gives out a distinct and delightful aroma. Fresh green curry leaves are edible and they are best for cooking but if it’s not available you can use the dried variety. The leaves can be dried in the shade and stored in airtight containers to retain their flavor but the aroma of dried curry leaves pales in comparison to the fresh ones. Curry leaves are essential ingredients of Indian curries, cooked vegetables, salads, chutneys, soups, broths and spiced snacks.
Although these leaves enhance the smell and taste of food, it is well known that they have some therapeutic value as well. Research studies at the Department of Home Economics, Kenmei Women’s Junior College, Hyogo in Japan showed that carbazole alkaloids such as mahanimbine, murrayanol, mahanineoenimbine, O-methylmurrayamine A, O-methylmahanine, isomahanine, bismahanine and bispyrayafoline which are found in curry leaves possess antioxidant properties. Another study conducted by the Department of Horticulture at Michigan State University suggested that these chemicals had insecticidal and antimicrobial properties as well.
The main nutrients found in curry leaves are carbohydrates, fiber, calcium, phosphorous, iron, magnesium, copper and minerals. It also contains various vitamins like nicotinic acid and vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin E, antioxidants, plant sterols, amino acids, glycosides and flavonoids. Curry leaves alleviate problems like constipation, indigestion, nausea, snakebite, spots and rashes and minor burns. Regular intake of curry leaves either raw or as juice or in meals benefits us a healthy lifestyle.