Helichrysum italicum is a flowering plant of the daisy family Asteraceae. It grows on dry, rocky or sandy ground around the Mediterranean, in the warm, rocky regions of Southern Europe and Turkey and sometimes confused with lavender when not in bloom. Helichrysum italicum is a small bushy evergreen sub-shrub with linear, silvery-grey, curry-scented leaves, and small bright yellow flowerheads in domed clusters, which retain their colour after picking and are used in dried flower arrangements. It is also called the Curry Plant because of the strong smell of its leaves.
Although called “Curry Plant” and smelling like curry powder, it has nothing to do with this mixture of spices, nor with the Curry Leaf Tree (Murraya koenigii), and is not used in Indian food as masala or curry dishes either. Rather, it has a resinous, somewhat bitter aroma reminiscent of sage or wormwood. Its taste is also bitter and many plant sellers say that the plant is not edible and better to use it in potpourris and wreaths, but not for food.
Helichrysum italicum or Curry plant is used for cooking, but unlike the indian curry leaves it is not eaten. Usually the young shoots and leaves are stewed in Mediterranean meat, fish or vegetable dishes till they have imparted their flavor, and removed before serving. Also it can be used for flavoring meats before roasting. It is known to irritate the stomach when eaten. So, this herb it is not popular in the culinary world.
Helichrysum italicum, also known as Everlasting or Immortelle Essential Oil, is valued for its magical essential oil. The word Helichrysum comes from the Greek helios = sun and chrysos = gold, and its oil has proven to be as powerful as the sun, and as valuable as gold and used for medicinal purposes. Helichrysum essential oil therapeutic properties are: anti-inflammatory, fungicidal, astringent, anti-spasmodic, anti-Haematoma, cicatrisant, cytophylactic, relaxant and anti-depressant, and often sold as a pain reliever, skin treatment or used in aromatherapy.
It soothes burns and raw chapped skin, helps to heal cuts, bruises, and all sorts of minor scrapes. It is one of the few essential oils that can be applied directly to the skin. It is used as a fixative in perfumes and has an intense fragrance.
The oils from the flowers are invaluable as moisturizers for the skin and extremely beneficial for topical skin care. L’Occitane has a complete line of excellent products called “Immortelle“.
As we’ve said above, the Curry Plant is often confused with Curry Leaf, or the Indian bay with a botanical name Murraya koenigii.
Murraya Koenigii or Curry Leaf Tree. Photo by enguistic.blogspot.com
It is a shrub or a small tree, native to India and the foothills of the Himalayas, eastward to Myanmar and southern China. Murraya koenigii is the edible plant and a primary seasoning in the South Indian dosa, a crispy, thin, rolled pancake-like bread served stuffed with several varieties of curry and potato with spices. Curry leaf is also used in pickles, egg dishes, aloo jeera, chutneys and many other Asian and Indian dishes. Curry Leaf Tree is known as “sweet neem” in India. We’ll better keep more interesting facts about Murraya koenigii for another article, but here we’ll continue to talk about the Curry Plant (Helichrysum italicum) and its growing tips.
Common names: Curry Plant, Immortelle
Synonyms: Helichrysum angustifolium
Native: Mediterranean, Southern Europe, Turkey
Plant type: Tender Perennial. Herb. But can also be annuals, herbaceous or evergreen perennials or shrubs.
Hardiness: USADA zones 7 – 11 (but said to survive even in zone 5)
Light: Full Sun, Partial Shade
Soil: Chalk, Loam, Sand. Alkaline, Neutral. Well-Drained.
Moisture: Drought-tolerant, Average Water.
Flowering period: Mid Summer, Late Summer, Early Fall
Flower Color: Yellow
Repeat Bloomer: No
Fragrant: Flowers, foliage, stems
Height: 30 – 60 cm (12 – 24 in)
Spread: 45 – 60 cm (18 – 24 in)
Time to plant: Spring
• From seed: sow February or March indoors or in a greenhouse. Germinates in about 2 – 3 weeks at 68°F (20°C). When the seedlings are large enough to handle, put them into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. You can plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts.
• From cuttings: take herbaceous stem cuttings in spring or autumn; by rooting semi-hardwood cuttings of shrubby species in summer and overwinter in frost-free conditions.
• By dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets).
Uses: Xeriscape garden. Herbaceous borders and beds. Containers. Rock Garden, Wall.
Fertilizer: likes poor soil like a rosemary or morning glory
Has Thorns: No
Edible: Not really, but can be used as a spice (stewed and removed).
• Prune it back with sharp pruners to old wood in the spring to encourage new growth otherwise it gets straggly and woody.
• Plant 12 inches (30 cm) apart.
• In areas with light frost, curry plants may die back temporarily. Protect leaves with 5-inch sleeve of straw set between chicken wire. In areas where temperature drops below 22°F (-5°C), bring curry plants indoors for winter protection.
• Protect from winter wet and cold dry winds.
Cover photo by fytosan.com
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Safety notes: This website is for educational purposes only and is not medical advice, and please check with your doctor before using plants if you are pregnant, using medications or have other health conditions.