Curry Leaves


Curry Leaves


Partha Desikan


Which among you Medhavis has never tasted curry leaves?

There could be some who would have just enjoyed the flavour transferred from curry leaves to the main dish. They would have carefully picked the spent leaves from the dish and discarded them, either before bringing the dish to the dining table or during the meal.

There would be others who would have remembered Grandmother's wagging finger and wise words and would therefore have chewed the spent leaves along with the main dish.

Both types will enjoy the well researched blog of this lady from Kerala, India, named Sumitha, who seems to be missing free availability of these precious leaves in Switzerland, so far away from home.


They will wonder along with her whether all the lovely things said about the leaves discovered by Murray under a larger genus discovered by Koenig could be true.

Among other data sources they would go through wikipedia

They will find taxonomical information from

If they feel that they do not exactly get answers for their questions, I wish to convey to them an assurance of the celebrated Siddha exponent and Tamil scholar V. Kannan, through his book in Tamil, ‘A herbal garden at home' (Veettil oru mooligai thottam) published in 2002 from Sri Ananda Nilayam, 29/5, Ranganathan Street, I Floor, Thyagarayanagar, Chennai-600 017. This assurance is to the effect that kariveppilai or curry leaf plant and 16 other plants/trees which can all be grown around a medium sized residence in tropical or sub-tropical regions in India provide material fully capable of healing modern Indian residents of over 4000 possible illnesses. Curry leaves in particular, Scholar Kannan claims, are good against diseases of the pitta category.  The four-liner he quotes from Siddha lore, would roughly translate as follows:


Loss of taste, queasiness of the stomach, long spells of fever,

Pitta-flow disorders, how will they survive, O my lady,

Whose kanthal-flower hands are hennaed so well, when on earth,

Kariveppilai is there, available and edible?


Pulavar Kannan provides data on the following:

  1. Where curry leaves grow
  2. How to cultivate this plant in the home garden
  3. Medicinal preparations and their uses.


  1. Kariveppilai belongs to the small tree genus. Most kitchen gardens in South India would normally have this growing in a cozy corner, occupying no more than about five square feet of the garden area. It grows between 8 and 10 feet tall. These days it is also being cultivated exclusively in large plots commercially. There ia a wilder variety with milder flavour. (Nurseries in New Jersey and California in the US provide three varieties as a potted plant and furnish information on after care.)
  2. In India, all that is required is to dig up about a foot and a half of soil to make it permeable in an area of about 4 square feet per seed, allow to air for about a week, fertilize with organic manure and re-spread the earth before sowing the seeds, to a depth of about a finger. Watering twice a day when it is not very hot, after sunrise and before sunset is recommended both before the plant sprouts. When the plants are about a foot tall, remove any that has grown too close to another. It is possible also to spray many seeds in any one location and remove all but one when they grow a foot in height. Typically, you grow no more than one to three plants in one home garden. If there are side sprouts coming later, which often happens, these can be carefully plucked out with roots intact and replanted at a distance. Watering requirement is very nominal, once a plant is a few feet tall.
  3. a) Plain leaf and milk: A handful of plain leaves chewed twice a day once at about 6-00 am and again at 4-00 pm, following the chew-session with a glass of milk from childhood onwards helps avoid early graying of hair for high pitta people. This treatment even reverses premature graying if carried out continuously for about 3 months. b) Choorna: A teaspoonful of curry leaf choorna can be mixed with a serving of rice and half a teaspoonful of ghee (melted, dehydrated butter) during one meal a day for a few days, to stop chronic diarrhoea as well as constipation. Intestines too get strengthened. The choorna works up healthy appetites, reduces pitta and body heat and also helps if one feels sick during eating. It is made by grinding together equal weights of a) green but dry curry leaves b) asafetida, pre-roasted, c) rock-salt and d) black pepper, dry ginger and cumin all individually dry fried to approximately golden colour. The powder can be sieved if needed. c) Chutney Paste: Indigestion and several gastric discomforts are avoided or removed if at least a few meals every week are taken with kariveppilai chutney or tuvaiyal, which is made by grinding together a) a handful of curry leaves pre-fried either in ghee or sesame oil, b) five or six dry red chillies pre-fried in sesame oil, c) a small ball of tamarind (the size of a blue-berry) pre-roasted briefly and d) salt to taste.


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