The curry tree (Sinhala: කරපිංචා, Tamil:கறி (curry)வேப்பிலை,
Kannada:ಕರಿಬೇವು Telugu:కరివేపాకు Malayalam: കറിവേപ്പില) (Murraya
koenigii; syn. Bergera koenigii, Chalcas koenigii) is a tropical to
sub-tropical tree in the family Rutaceae, which is native to India.
The name itself in Tamil is pronounced as 'kariveppilai' ( kari-curry,
veppu- neem and ilai-leaf ) which is the literal translation of
curry leaves. The Tamil name means "leaf that is used to make curry"
and it is present in almost all the dishes of Tamil nadu (a state in
south India) in addition to coriander leaves. Often used in curries,
the leaves generally go by the name "curry leaves", though they are
also called "sweet neem leaves." It is an unavoidable content of
curries in South India, where without curry leaves, curry seems to
be tasteless. The Kannada name means "black neem", since the
appearance of the leaves is similar to the unrelated bitter neem
tree. Same way in Gujarati it is known as "limdo" or "meetho leemdo"
(means Sweet neem). Curry leaves are also entirely unrelated to bay
leaves and basil leaves, which are aromatic leaves from the
The small flowers are white and fragrant.
It is a small tree, growing 4- m tall, with a trunk up to 40cm
diameter. The leaves are pinnate, with 11-21 leaflets, each leaflet
2-4 cm long and 1-2 cm broad. They are highly aromatic. The flowers
are small, white, and fragrant. The small black shiny berries are
edible, but their seeds are poisonous.
The species name commemorates the botanist Johann König.
The leaves are highly valued as seasoning in southern and
west-coast Indian cooking, and Sri Lankan cooking, much like bay
leaves, and especially in curries, usually fried along with the
chopped onion in the first stage of the preparation. They are also
used to make thoran, vada, rasam and kadhi. In their fresh form,
they have a short shelf life, and they don't keep well in the
refrigerator. They are also available dried, though the aroma is
The leaves of Murraya koenigii are also used as a herb in
Ayurvedic medicine. Their properties include much value as an
anti-diabetic, antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory,
hepatoprotective, anti-hypercholesterolemic etc. Curry leaves are
also known to be good for hair, for keeping it healthy and long.
They also contain iron.
Although most commonly used in curries, leaves from the curry
tree can be used in many other dishes to add spice.
Seeds must be ripe and fresh to plant; dried or shriveled fruits
are not viable. Plant either the whole fruit (or remove the pulp) in
potting mix and keep moist but not wet