Curry leaf is not what curry powered is made of, although it is often used to enhance the flavor of curry dishes (especially from South India), dals, and chutneys. It is from a tree that is member of the citrus family and has a flavor that has been described as half lemon, half tangerine. There’s nothing quite like them. Aromatic affordable bags of leaves can be purchased fresh at Indian markets. Most of the curry leaves in the markets are grown in Arizona like the ones above. A much larger leaf curry comes from Hawaii, although I’ve yet to see it.
In Seattle, I get mine at Mr. B’s Indian Grocery/Convenience Market (formerly R & M Market) at 5501 University Way NE, in the University District. A sandwich-sized zip lock bag will cost about $3.00 (phone: 206-526-1793). If they are out, or Shoreline is closer to you, then Indian Sweets and Spices Market in Shoreline has usually has them for $2.00 a bag. Their address is: 18002 15th Ave. NE D, Seattle 98115 (phone: 206-367-4568). The new owner does periodic cooking demonstrations in the store.
Do not remove the stems from the leaves–they will keep close to a month that way in a zip lock bag in the refrigerator. If I’m not going to get through all of them (I get excited and buy lots when I go) I remove the leaves from the stem and leave out to dry at room temperature–the will look like curled bay leaves, but much more aromatic. It takes just a few days. Put them in a sealed spice jar or back in a zip lock in your cupboard. The fresh ones can also be frozen and used chopped up but it does cause them to turn black and I lose small items in my freezer so I either give away or dry my extras.
Fresh curry leaves are most commonly used sautéed in oil at the beginning of cooking a dish, and often paired with mustard seeds. They do splatter a bit so you may need to cover the pan (even when cooking just curry leaves). I like sautéing in coconut oil. We’ve used fresh curry leaves in our Spiced Truffles and our Curry and Fish Casserole for Company. They pair well with allspice, chili, cumin, coriander, mustard, garlic, ginger, onion, and turmeric.
According to Bharat Aggarwal PhD, author and professor of cancer research, biochemistry, immunology, and experimental therapeutics at Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, curry leaves are a standard remedy in the traditional medicine of India (Ayurveda). They are used to control diabetes, heart disease, infections and inflammation, and are rich in anti-oxidants beta-carotene and vitamin C.
Spices contain many unique phytonutrients not available from fruits and vegetables. Healing Spices, Aggarwal, p. 4. Indian researchers have also discovered that fresh curry leaves contain more powerful antioxidants than other leafy greens popular in Indian cuisine, in particular carbazole alkaloids, which reportedly help fight type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. (Healing Spices, pp.4, 111).