Curry leaves: picking, selecting, storing

24 Oct 2013 10.03 am by Renny Wijeyamohan

If you’ve ever tried your hand at Asian cuisine – you’d know the curry leaf is king. This taste-laden leaf is thrown into Indian, Sri Lankan and Pakistani cuisine to add a delicious aroma and a burst of citrus-like flavour to any dish. Curry leaves are known to aid digestion and are high in Vitamins A and C as well as being packed with antioxidants and flavonoids. A curry leaf plant is easy to grow and won’t require much tending, so try planting one in your backyard to cultivate that authentic Asian flavour.


Picking curry leaves

Curry leaves are ready to be picked as soon as the plant produces leaves that are around 5-7 centimetres in length (approx 2-3 inches). Even a curry leaf plant that has a few branches can be harvested, just make sure not to harvest too much so as to stunt the growth of the plant. The more leafy branches the plant has the more consistent and ongoing your harvest will be.


To pick curry leaves either cut off an entire branch – if you’re planning on using a lot of leaves – or individually pull off the leaves that you’ll need. A handy tip to strip a number of leaves quickly off a branch is to hold one end of the branch between your thumb and forefinger, apply pressure and then slide your fingers towards the other end of the branch. As your fingers slide along they will strip off each leaf cleanly.


Selecting curry leaves

Curry leaves can be bought fresh from your local supermarket or grocery store – although they’re more commonly found at a specialty Asian grocer. Keep an eye out for fresh, crisp and fragrant leaves, the greener the better. Avoid leaves that have lost their aroma or are brown and wilted. They won’t add much punch to your dish. 


Storing curry leaves

Fresh curry leaves will dry out quickly – so you’ll need to use them within a few days. Storing them in the refrigerator within a damp paper towel in an airtight plastic bag can extend their lifespan between 1-2 weeks. Curry leaves can also be frozen and will retain their flavour for a month or two before it starts to fade. Just place them in an airtight container or a ziplock bag before freezing. Add them to your cooking quickly after removing from the freezer for best flavour. You can also try drying curry leaves by refrigerating them without any paper towel for 4-5 days, microwaving them or leaving them out on a drying rack in the sun. Once dry the leaves will curl and feel papery and brittle to the touch. Dried curry leaves should be stored in a sealed airtight jar to be added to your cooking when necessary.


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