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I really enjoyed my visit to Cornell Plantations this week, particularly the herb garden, which was still looking good after several hard frosts. Even in the relatively chilly November air, I was overpowered by scent as I passed one of the 17 theme beds.  This was clearly the “tussie mussie and nosegay” bed.

Particularly fragrant were the green santolina and the curry plant, Helichrysum italicum, which looks like lavender and smells like dinner–but isn’t good to eat.

I remember, however, once buying a different herbaceous plant labelled as “curry plant” in a nursery that smelled similarly savory, but that had rounded little succulent leaves. I haven’t identified that one yet.

And then there is the curry tree, Murraya koenigii, pictured above, which is native to India and actually is used in Indian cooking.  When I interviewed the great Indian cookbook writer Madhur Jaffrey, she was laughing at the lengths to which she’d gone–driving out to Jersey in order to meet the one not terribly professional guy offering it at the time–in order to obtain a curry tree to grow in a pot.  When we spoke it wasn’t doing terribly well for her.  I remember her telling me about a few pathetic leaves hanging on. 

Maybe that’s not an uncommmon experience, as this Atlantic blog post suggests.  Still, all risks involving dinner are worth taking, in my opinion.  I’m ordering a curry tree!  It can join my neglected potted rosemary, bay tree, and citrus trees that are dragged in and out of the house every year at some point.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Photo credit: Rantingsteve

Posted by

Michele Owens
on November 4, 2011 at 5:07 am, in the category Books, Eat This.