Cooking With Curry Leaves

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Fresh curry leaves are among my favorite spices to use when cooking. I am fortunate to be able to pick the leaves fresh off the tree. The leaves are so aromatic that simply holding the leaf between your fingers will leave a strong scent. The fragrance is an intriguing mixture of spicy and sweet. So what are curry leaves and why should we use them?

Curry leaf comes the "Curry Tree" (Muraya Koenigi) which is native to India, and which also grows in sub-tropical to tropical climates, and it its also known as "sweet neem". The leaves impart a wonderful flavor to food, but this is only the most superficial of its benefits. We hear a lot about turmeric these days, but the curry leaf is arguably one of Ayurveda's most medicinal spices.

The curry leaf detoxifies the liver and purifies the blood, which in turn helps balance healthy cholesterol levels. Owing to its alternative name as "sweet neem", curry leaves also help remove microorganisms such as viruses, parasites, and bacteria. Curry leaves also enhance the digestive fire without imbalancing Pitta, making it a boon for Pitta types and for treating high Pitta / low Agni conditions.

The cleansing effect of curry leaf is not limited to the body, but also effects the mind. My Ayurvedic teacher, Vaidya R.K. Mishra, spoke of curry leaves as being similar to tulsi in helping to clear negative energies. For this reason, it is also recommended to grow the curry tree as a houseplant to keep the energetic atmosphere of one's environment clean.

All in all, curry leaves are safe for all constitutions to use in their daily cooking. A good rule of thumb is 2 leaves per person. Sauté in ghee with other spices, and feel free to eat the leaves after they have been cooked!