One of the most popular spices used in South Indian cuisine is the curry leaf. This should definitely not be confused with the common ‘curry plant’ (which is not edible but smells of curry powder) often seen in garden centers here in the UK. The curry leaf plant or ‘Murraya koenigii’ to give it it’s full name adds an unmistakable fragrance to Indian dishes. It can be used fresh or dried and is usually fried off early in the cooking process along with your spices (such as mustard seeds or cumin seeds) and onions.
I’ve yet to find a curry leaf plant for sale here in the UK – I’m guessing because they are not too keen on our cool climate. As a result, curry leaves are usually sold pre dried in supermarkets in tiny packets for extortionate prices. If you can seek out a local Indian or Asian supermarket you’ll sometimes manage to find fresh imported leaves for sale in large bunches. It is from such a bunch that I’m currently trying to propagate some cuttings.
I tried to take some cuttings from some fresh curry leaves a couple of years ago with little success. Last time I tried it was the autumn time so the weather wasn’t really on my side. One of the cuttings appeared to have taken and survived for a few weeks before dying back. Hopefully by starting in Spring the warmer temperatures will help get the plants established.
If i manage to succeed I’m guessing the plant will have to live in the conservatory during the summer and our warmer living room during the winter. I’m told by a friend that the plants can be quite vigorous once they get established and require regular pruning in order to ensure a constant supply of fresh young leaves.
The potting mix I’ve used is a mixture of multi purpose compost, sand and horticultural grit. The key to taking any cuttings is to supply them with a free draining medium (hence the grit) that will supply the developing roots with lots of oxygen. As with all cuttings I’ve placed each one around the edge of the pot (4 in each). I used rooting gel on 4 cuttings and nothing on the other four.
Cuttings of any sort need to be kept out of direct sunlight and in a humid atmosphere for the first few weeks if they are to succeed. As a result it’ll be keeping them on our north facing kitchen bay windowsill, inside an unheated propagator. I’ll mist the plants once a day to keep the humidity levels up. I also removed some of the leaves from all of the cuttings, reducing the amount of foliage on each stem. Doing this means the cutting has less foliage to support and keep alive meaning it can concentrate on producing and establishing healthy roots.
As for the rest of the bunch of leaves, they have been happily drying away for a couple of days (pictured above) in the conservatory and will be added to the store cupboard and eaten over the winter by which time hopefully I’ll have a supply of fresh leaves with which to replace them.
So, wish me luck. I’ll report back in a few weeks with my success or failure. Meanwhile if any of you have any experience in taking curry leaf cuttings please feel free to leave me some tips in the comments below.