Delivering a Curry Leaf Tree


Today in a balmy weather perfect for starting something new for this year, I visited my friend from South India with a pot of a young curry leaf tree. The leaves of this tree are fragrant and used as indispensable ingredients for South Indian and Sri Lankan cuisine. In these countries, people usually take the leaves from their own yard and never think of buying. But for those who have moved to Japan, even the imported dried leaves are desperately hard to find, let alone fresh leaves.

Only recently, limited amount of fresh curry leaves became available in Japan through certain retailers and I occasionally have access to them because of my job as an Indian cooking school instructor. So when I visited this friend last year, I brought a handful of curry leaf sprigs as souvenir. She opened the package, screamed without a voice, thrust her face into the leaves, filled her lungs with the aroma and gazed at them in a totally enraptured look.
She immediately added them lavishly to the dishes she prepared for me and made me worry if there were enough left for her to use for next several days.

Quite contrasting was the reaction of her children hurried to see what happened to their mother. They looked into the bag and asked what leaves are those. When told they are curry leaves, they said “Ok…” and seemed a little puzzled what was so special about them. Growing up in Tokyo, the fresh aroma of curry leaves probably had not been part of their daily lives. I realized that they had neither a memory with it nor an attachment to it. My heart ached a bit.

Coincidence or providence, soon after that visit, my Japanese friend Akiko texted me saying she had some pots of young curry leaf trees to share with me. She was my classmate at the Indian cooking school and had reared them at home from some seeds and seedlings.

The young trees she gave me were still too small to pick the leaves for cooking. But I wanted to deliver one of them to my South Indian friend who was so delighted with the fresh leaves the other day. So I visited her again today, this time with Akiko.

She welcomed us as always with plenty of hearty South Indian dishes. See also Akiko’s blog on her today’s visit and the best vada (South Indian snack) she had ever tasted 😉

And yes, the curry leaf tree!
As the pot was already quite full with roots, I brought a bigger pot and asked the children to repot the tree to it.

They put some pebbles at the bottom, added some soil over the tree, flattened them by their small hands and have done a great job!
My friend, silently watched over her kids’ work muttered to me that she would pray to god to watch over this tree to thrive.

The winter weather in Tokyo is too cold for tropical plants, so we need to keep this young tree in the house at this time of the year. We can only hope it set roots in its new pot. I wonder how big it will be a year from now.

For the kids, it is now “my curry leaf tree” they replanted by their own hands.
Someday, would the fragrance of these leaves be part of the good memories of their childhood family meals? Would the day come that they inhale and cherish this aroma as something that connects them to their land of roots where people have long lived with these fragrant leaves?

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