Sounds crazy, but it's true. So where do you start? Emily Rae of Plants4Presents recently displayed all these 'curry' plants at Hampton Court Flower show.
When people talk about ‘growing your own’, tomatoes and salads always spring to mind. But there are a whole host of more exotic herbs and spices that can be grown at home, producing fresh ingredients that will make all the difference to your recipes.
At Plants4Presents we specialise in plants as gifts and are always looking for interesting and unusual greenery. We have been growing and selling kaffir limes, lemongrass and chillies as gifts for many years, but this year we thought it would be fun to expand our range of exotic herbs and spices to produce a ‘Grow Your Own Curry’ display for Hampton Court Flower Show.
You get the freshest and the tastiest
The display was a fantastic success and we had so much interest from visitors, both from people who were already growing a wide range of vegetables and herbs and those new to the ‘growing your own’ phenomenon. The point about growing these more unusual ingredients like curry leaves, cardamom, turmeric and kaffir limes is not only that you have the freshest ingredients to hand, but that you can use the very best parts of the plant that are not always available in the shops.
Kaffir lime trees
For example the leaves of kaffir lime trees are the distinctive flavour in Thai Green Curry, and fresh leaves from your own tree knock the socks off dried leaves. In addition, whilst packets of imported kaffir lime leaves are now often available in larger supermarkets and specialist stores, you don’t ever see the fruits. On a sunny patio or windowsill these tough little lime trees are very productive, producing plenty of glossy green leaves, scented flowers, and wrinkled-looking limes. The zest and juice of these fruits are fantastic - even more powerful than the leaves. They can be used in place of ordinary limes to make a whole range of dishes. We’ve used them ourselves in stir fries, curries and sauces, but we had some great ideas put forward at the show. Kaffir lime cheesecake and kaffir lime panacotta were my favourites and ones I can’t wait to try out myself!
Similarly we are all familiar with turmeric powder, but how many of us have used fresh turmeric root or leaves? Turmeric roots can be stored in the fridge just as you would ginger. They have a more delicate earthy flavour than the dried powder, so you would use a little more than stated for turmeric powder in your recipe, and grate it fresh into curries and stews. Best to use gloves to protect your hands from the dye when handling turmeric tubers. The leaves are also a fantastic herb in their own right and feature in many Malaysian dishes. You can shred them directly into quick-cook dishes or use them as a wrap for chicken, fish, or cheese, where the subtle flavour will infuse into the food.
Lemongrass is another plant where we only use a small and inferior part of the plant. The thick stems are what we are familiar with, because that is the easiest part of the plant to import and it's not subject to the same plant health restrictions. But traditionally, the whole leaf is used. To break up the sharp fibres it is best to roll the leaves or bash them with the end of a rolling pin before finely dicing. The young green leaves have a lighter, more fragrant flavour and can be used in place of stems in a whole range of dishes.
Easy to keep
All of these plants originate in more tropical climes, so they need a bit more protection than our native plants. They'll do very well on a windowsill, or on a sunny patio in the summer months. At winter, both kaffir limes and lemongrass will be fine kept in a light cool room, whereas the turmeric behaves as an annual and should be allowed to die back as the light levels drop in the autumn. Lift with some of the tuber saved for replanting.
More Grow Your Own things
You can find out more about growing these exotic herbs and spices on our website at www.plants4presents.co.uk and order them for yourself with 10% off all orders over £30 for LoveFood readers. Just quote ‘LoveF’ on the online order form and order before the end of August (whilst stocks last).
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