Growing curry leaves in your backyard
Today, we learn the topic of growing curry leaves in backyard. In earlier days the financial strength of any country was measured in terms of its agricultural diversity especially its richness in spices and condiments. Before the trend of exchanging currencies, spices and condiments were also a medium of barter system. When talking of spices and condiments how can we not mention curry leaves?
These are the aromatic leaves which are an indispensable part of curry making and various delicacies. These leaves are used as an important ingredient in different parts of the world like India, Thailand and other Asian countries. Curry leaves are being grown as an important culinary plant since long back and are also commonly found in kitchen gardens because of its various culinary and medicinal uses and its easy cultivation and low maintenance.
Botany of Curry Leaf Plant:
Curry plant is universally known with its scientific name Murraya koenigiia which belongs to the orange family Rutaceae. Curry plant is also known with different names across the globe in different languages.
Vernacular names in other languages are:
Hindi: Kathnim, Mitha neem, Curry or curry patta, Gandhela, Bareanga, and Kadi Patta
Sanskrit: Krishna nimba
Tamil: Karivempu, Karuveppilei
English: Curry leaves.
The shrub is more or less deciduous in growth habit. The height varies from 1 m to 6 meters. A strong smelling shrub or small tree, aromatic leaves are pinnate, pubescent, or glabrous. Leaflets are small, obliquely ovate, elliptic, lanceolate or rhomboid. Flowers are white in color and many flowered. Fruits are ovoid or sub-globose, becomes black when ripened. Seeds are embedded in mucilage.
An economically important part of curry plant is its leaves; it is used as an herb for preparation of a variety of dishes such as curry, stews, soup, and many such delicacies. Curry leaves are full of balanced nutrients it contains carbohydrate and a noticeable quantity of dietary fiber. One can find a great amount of moisture, a good fraction of protein, a slight portion of fat and outstanding amount of minerals in it; calcium, iron, and phosphorus are there in a considerable amount. In addition to these, it has lots of vitamins. The leaves are a fine source of vitamin A. They are also a rich source of calcium, but due to the presence of oxalic acid in high concentration (total oxalates 1.35%, soluble extracts 1.15%), its nutrient availability is affected.
Forms of Curry Leaf:
- Fresh: best form to be used as it has the best of its characteristic aroma and taste.
- Dried and powdered: simply by shed or sun drying this form is used for long term storage.
Trade in Curry Leaf/Plant:
India is the ranks first and it is the largest producer and consumer of curry leaf. Countries like Burma, Malaysia, South Africa are also producing the curry leaf. The Southern state of Tamil Nadu is one of the major curry leaves producing region. The trade in the spice is limited to a few Asian countries which are also strengthening the economy with time.
Use of Curry Leaf/Plant:
- in food
The plant is extensively used in South Indian states for flavoring various dishes. It is also used for its characteristic aroma in Srilanka. The leaves can be taken raw or sauted. The leaves are used in fresh or dried form for flavoring curries, vegetable, fish and meat dishes, soups pickles, buttermilk preparations, chutneys. India Curry leaves are known by the name of kari-pattha, kadi patta. In contemporary period foreign countries used curry powder to give their food an Indian taste.
- Medicinal Use
The spice is said to have many medicinal properties. It is used in the conventional medicinal system for improving the digestive system, skin conditions and as a treatment for diabetes. Curry leaves are also used for hair treatment and it is known curry leaf paste helps in regeneration of hair follicles and strengthening them.
The chemical composition of Curry leaf plant defines the aroma and its taste. Essential Oil Components-
The essential oil is present on oil glands of curry leaves which imparts its aroma and a different taste, the chemical composition of essential oil are monoterpenes including ß-phellandrene, a-pinene, ß-pinene. In some species sesquiterpenes found to be the main constituent.
Best growing practices of curry leaf plant:
It’s always desirable to have your share of important fresh spices at your home for making your dishes more palatable with a quick addition of aromatic leaves like curry leaves. so we are here to guide you with key notes of cultivating curry leaves with few requirements both at your backyard or at field level.
Soil and climate suitable for Curry Leaf Plant
There, it is easy to grow even for a beginner. It just desires full sun and moderate watering to thrive. Cultivation of curry leaves do not require a particular atmosphere and can be grown in a dry atmosphere as well. In places where the minimum temperature goes beneath thirteen-degree (˚C), the development of plant will be somewhat influenced and favored. The favorable temperature range for raising the curry leaf plant is 26-37˚C. Light textured Red sandy loam soil is ideal for its cultivation. It can tolerate temperature up to 37°C. But below 16°C, its growth is affected.
Varieties of Curry Leaf Plants:
There are 2 improved varieties of curry leaf widely under cultivation in India —DWD 1 and DWD 2. Both of these have a good aroma. The varieties have an oil content of 5.22% and 4.09% respectively. Variety DWD 1 is sensitive to the winter season. During winter its growth is poor, whereas DWD 2 is cold tolerant variety. It gives a higher yield than DWD 1. ‘Senkaampu’ is a well known local cultivar grown in many regions of Tamil Nadu.
Read: How To Grow Spinach In Pots.
Curry leaf is primarily propagated through seeds. For raising seedlings, properly ripened fruits are collected from high-yielding plants. It is advised to remove the hard outer shell of seed before sowing for faster germination. The seeds are sown either in nursery or polybags filled with a mixture of 1:1:1 sand, soil and farmyard manure. Seeds usually germinate in 3 weeks and One-year-old seedlings are preferred to be planted in the field. It can also be propagated by root suckers. There are a number of root suckers present near its plants. They are removed from the main plant during the rainy season and planted immediately to propagate a new plant. Stem cuttings and plantlets are also used for raising new plants. Regular pruning or picking of leaves is essential to promote the fresh foliage growth.
Soil Preparation for growing curry leaves in backyard:
The soil should be fertile and should have good organic matter. In deep, fertile and light soil transplanting is done directly in small pits. Whereas in poor and hard soil, pits are taken at the size of at least 1.5×1.5×2 ft. length, width, and depth respectively. The pits are dug about six months before planting and left open to weather for few months after which they are filled with well rotten composts and green leaves.
when planting a curry plant in your backyard kitchen garden it is recommended to grow your plant directly in the soil surface rather than raising it in the pot or any container because it attains a good height and growth that your container cannot hold up and when growing in pots proper cutting and pruning becomes a headache so let your curry plant grow well on ground and enrich your dining table with lovely aroma and taste.
Manure and fertilizers:
Usually, curry leaf plant is not given inorganic or chemical fertilizer as they affect its aroma which is the key character. But for higher yields, its plant may be given 10kg farmyard manure and NPK @ 60:80:40g/plant/year and some biofertilizers such as manure. The fertilizers may be applied at the onset of the monsoon.
Aftercare and maintenance:
The pit should be irrigated properly if there is no availability of rain. The plant should be irrigated at 3-day intervals at least if there are no rains. The field should be kept weed free by proper rouging. The plants should be trained and pruned to keep a height of about 1m. Their terminal buds are recommended to be removed for encouraging lateral branching. A least of 5–6 branches are kept per plant.
Watering your curry leaf plant:
If proper irrigation facilities are convenient the plants should be regularly irrigated. However, moisture conservation techniques should be adopted both to conserve rainwater or irrigation water when growing plants in a huge area. Mulching is an advantageous practice. At the same time, adequate drainage facilities should be provided. When cultivating curry plant at home you can simply water your plant every alternate day or so because it doesn’t demand much water.
Leaves are the economic product of the curry leaf tree. To achieve maximum leaf production the plants are topped first at around 100 cm height. This encourages profuse branching on all sides. Allow them to grow and develop leaves. Then they are again pruned to encourage further branching. After every pruning or topping of branches, an additional dosage of NPK and compost mixture should be applied and irrigated. This will result in profuse growth of leaves. Topping is done in such a way that each plant acquires a good shape allowing all branches and leaves to have adequate sunlight.
The pruning or topping is also a part of the harvesting of leaves. The leaf quality will decline if the plant is allowed to flower and fruit. So unless seed production is not indented, pruning and harvesting of leaves should be done before flowering. Similarly where there is winter harvesting is done before the leaves start shedding.
At commercial level Harvested leaves are graded, bundled and marketed or sent to processing units for the extraction of oil.
Diseases and Pests:
Luckily, the curry leaf plant is not critically infected by diseases and pests. If required very mild pesticides can be used at least 15 days before harvesting of leaves. If there are chances of incidence a preventive spray of malathion or tobacco decoction, etc could be sprayed. For controlling soil-borne pests and diseases about 1-2 kg of neem cake per plant per year is suggested.
Additional Tips for Growing Curry Leaves in Backyard:
- Don’t overwater it, especially in winter.
- Let the soil dry out during water spells as it likes well-drained dry soil.
- Plant it in a small container and then regularly update the size of the container to the next one as the plant progress its growth which is not a rewarding process.
- Place it (colder zones) indoors or in a greenhouse in winter.
- Use compost and good quality nitrogen-rich fertilizer for lush green foliage.
- Don’t plant it in the windy spot as it grows upright and has weak rooting system and trunk it may bend or break.
That’s all gardeners about growing curry leaves in backyard.