Curry is well known, it is a sweet and savory spice and considered to be the essence of Indian cuisine. Curry is a spice made from the leaves of the curry tree coupled with cumin, turmeric and coriander. The Curry berry however is less known and grows of the same tree. The 1/2 inch round curry berry grows in clusters of up to 80 berries.
The fruits emerge from picturesque white blooms as green and mature to a shiny black purple black tone.
The berries flesh is juicy and a pale blue, some have described its taste as ‘peculiar’, some say it is an acquired taste, personally I found it to be a delicous deviation from the sweet berries we North Americans are accustomed to. Each berry contains several dark green seeds. The seeds are toxic, the berries are not.
The curry leaf tree is not a huge cumbersome obverbearing tree, but more like a shrub or bush, at most it reaches 12 to 18 feet in height but is easily trained to maintained a shorter stature. It is sub tropical and requires temperatures in the ballpark of 70 degrees Fahrenheit to germinate. Being sub tropical the seed does not need cold startification or a dormancy to germinate, fresh seed shows the highest success rate. Curry seeds are the pits of the fruit or berry. The leaves are used to make curry, however curry leaf is not curry powder and most curry on the market does not even contain real curry leaves.
Planting Curry Leaf Trees
Starting Curry from Seeds
Grows best in zones 9-12
Ripe Berrries can be planted with the flesh still on them, or stripped to the core to sew just the naked seed itself. You can also remove the hard outer shell before planting to expedite germination. Sowing the seeds in a pot with standard potting soil will work just fine. Germination is a tad tricky and many seeds will never produce a plant, so be sure to plant more than you will want and select the best of the batch as the successful seeds sprout.
Germination take 6 to 8 weeks on the average, sometimes as long as several months. Keep the seedlings in a warm, well lit sheltered location. If climatic conditions permit outdoors is fine, if not indoors will have to suffice. It will take up to 2 years for the seedlings to become saplings.
If you choose to grow it in containers the container size should be gradually increased to accomodate the plant as it grows. If you live in a suitable climate you may want to plant it in the yard. Be sure to acclimate it to the outdoor environment gradually, the same as hardening off seedlings before leaving it outdoors for any length of time.
Fresh cuttings from a curry plant can also be used to start a new tree. Choose curry leaves with petiole and or stem still atattched to start a plant. Root cuttings and Rooted suckers are sometimes used. They rarely produce root growth in water as soft tissue plants do, but should be treated as a hardwood cutting.
Hardwood cuttings should be planted in a suitable medium and container deep enough to accommodate about twice the cuttings length.
Starting Curry from Cuttings
Suitable Mediums are coconut coir, coarse sand, even potting mix with lots of perlite and or vermiculite, peat blended with perlite. or blends such as a mixture of equal parts of peat and Perlite or part peat and sand. Or you could just use potting soil and cross your fingers.
1. Fill your container loosely with the Medium.
2. Dipping the bottom of your cutting in the rooting hormone is optional. Rooting Hormone is advisable for hardwood cuttings, it does improve your odds in your favor. It enhances your success rate and expedites the plants progress.
3. Insert the cutting into the medium / soil mixture already in the container. Insert roughly half the length of the cutting into the mix, you should have plenty of space to spare at the bottom of the container. The medium soil mix should also be loose enough where there is minimal resistance when you drive the cutting into it , but sturdy enough to support the cutting.
4. The cutting should not be in direct sunlight until it is established, it needs some light but a slightly shaded area is best in the beginning. Placing a clear plastic bag with small slits over the plant and container allows the plant to breathe while retaining as much moisture as possible from the plants respiration.
5. They should be kept moist but not sitting in water continuously. Hardwood cuttings should develop roots over the plants normal dormant season and be ready to plant at the end of the next season.