Friday, September 24, 2010

The Imposter in the Garden

The healthiest plant in my garden these days--and for quite some time now--is what is known as a curry plant. This frosty-green perennial is available for purchase at the gardening center alongside herbs like oregano, thyme, parsley, tarragon and sage. While, I've never known what to do with it, I've been happy to let it coexist with all the other herbs that regularly make their way into whatever I happen to be cooking.

 While the aroma of the curry plant is vaguely similar to that of a generic curry of some sort, no curry seasoning blends actually contain this plant. Recipes for curry are innumerable, with each cook possessing the secrets to family favorites. Different spice blends lend themselves to particular dishes, whether based on chicken, fish, vegetables or tofu, and to different seasons as well. Some curry blends make you sweat and cool you off in summer, while others help keep you warm in winter. Most curries include some combination of cinnamon, coriander, cumin, nutmeg, fennel seed, cardamom, fenugreek, turmeric, saffron, tamarind and quite a number of other spices and flavorings. But no curry plant.

Yesterday I finally became curious enough to do a little research and find out what this plant really is and how to use it. I discovered that we have an imposter in our midst. It turns out that this plant has neither culinary nor medicinal qualities. Except for its use in potpourris and wreaths, it does nothing to merit the space it takes up in the garden. I realized that I've been had by a plant! How sad is that? I fumed about this at dinner.

"I'm going to rip that plant out of the ground and throw it into the dumpster tomorrow," I told Himself. "I feel like going out there with a flashlight and pulling it up right NOW!"

"Feeling just a bit vengeful, are we?" he chuckled.

So I picked a frond of the pretender and nibbled a bit of it. Not much flavor, really, just enough chlorophyll to let me know I was chewing on a plant. Then I slept on it (on my decision, not on the plant. Sheesh, you readers!). In spite of its dishonest ways, it is greenery, and it does smell nice. It's pretty, too and one of the few things thriving in my deserty backyard.

Oh, what the hell? For now, the imposter stays.


khb said...

Carol, I got taken by this plant, too! I thought it would give me "curry leaves" which is actually from the plant Chalcas koenigii. The one we have in our garden is Helichrysum angustifolium and it's edible, but not very tasty. I wrote a little bit about it in my blog here:
But I have to tell you, after a few years, it started getting a little overgrown and woody, so I pulled it out.

Hungry Passport said...

Wow, I looked at the pic of your curry plant, and I'd say it qualifies for its own zip code! I think I'll probably keep mine until I find something I'd rather use that real estate for. Then like the bad tenant it is, it will be evicted!

fdf said...

Very funny, the same thing happened to me too! I think the garden center must have sold it with the culinary herbs and I too thought it was curry leaves. I kept smelling it and tried to use it but as you both found, it wasn't of any value.
I'm redoing my herb garden and so we don't have it anymore.
Faye Levy