Growing the Ingredients for Making One’s Own Curry
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Clara Kiser
Posted on: May 27, 2008

Have looked without success for three months for seed from which I can grow my own curry. Can you help?

Curries are mixtures of spices, and are not from one single plant. Typical recipes include coriander, cumin, turmeric, cardamom, mustard, and cayenne pepper and often other spices such as ginger, fenugreek, black pepper and asafoetida depending on the recipe and locality where the curry comes from. A project to make curry from plants grown in one’s own garden would be a challenge in North America because the core ingredients cardamom and turmeric are tropical spices that require special care to grow here. But coriander, cumin, mustard, fenugreek and cayenne pepper grow well in North America and, with planning, a project to grow your own curry ingredients and make your own blend with added purchased ingredients is certainly feasible here.

The first step is to decide on the recipe you want to follow. There are many, as an online search for "curry powder recipe" will reveal. Here is a link to a very basic recipe:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recipes/recipe/0,1977,FOOD_9936_25741,00.html

You can easily grow coriander, cumin, mustard and cayenne pepper. You sow seeds of the first three in the garden as soon as the ground is warm and the threat of frost is over. Cayenne pepper needs to be started early indoors as it is slower to grow from seeds. Normally you start cayenne pepper seeds in mid to late March. As it is now late May, you will need to find some plants already started. All of these require full sun and fertile, well-drained soil. Try to pick the spot in your garden where it is the warmest. You can also grow fenugreek easy, one of the supplemental ingredients that is easy to grow and is sown direct in the garden just like coriander, cumin and mustard.

If you are more ambitious you could try growing your own ginger, turmeric and cardamom too. It is possible to grow ginger and turmeric from live roots but it takes months to get a decent plant, so you may wish to start with plants. Cardamom can be started from seeds but they are very slow also. Again, you may wish to start with plants. With effort and luck, ginger and turmeric will produce a harvest of roots that you can use in your blend. Cardamom, however, will not likely flower and produce seeds in the first year; it is a plant that takes several years to reach maturity, and for this project, it may not be practical.

It should be mentioned that there are two herbs that are called "curry" but are not at all the same as the real curry blends. Curryplant is a herb that resembles rosemary and has mildly curry-scented grey-green leaves. It has a very mild flavour and limited value in the kitchen. It certainly is not a substitute for curry. Curryleaf is a small South Indian tree and the fresh leaves are a key ingredient in the distinctive cuisines of South India. Again, it is totally different from the curry and cannot be used as a substitute. Both can be grown as tender perennials; Richters sells the curryplant; and we also grow the curryleaf and sometimes have it for sale but we cannot ship it to the U.S. due to USDA restrictions.

No doubt, growing and making your own curry would be a unique project for North American herb gardeners. Serving Indian dishes made with your own ingredients would be very impressive!

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