Not all herbs are used primarily in cooking. With their culinary, aromatic, medicinal, economic and purely decorative qualities, herbs are often referred to as “the useful plants.” Each month’s herb pick for 2018 will feature a example of the many and varied uses for herbs that can be grown in our region.
Helichrysum italicum or curry plant is a tender perennial. Outdoors, it does best in U.S. zones 8 to 11. It can’t tolerate a hard frost. It prefers soil that drains well, plenty of full sun, and warm to hot conditions. It’s a perfect choice for intermittent drought-prone area like ours.
If you have a spot behind a shed or garage that tends to reject your efforts to plant it out, curry plant may be a good choice there, too. Because it’s such a good sport about water, it doesn’t require mulching, but is happy with the same gravel mulch preferred by lavender in our region. It’s also a natural pest repellent. Bugs tend to avoid it, and deer hate it.
Growing to a height of about 30 inches or so, curry plant looks like a cross between lavender and rosemary. It has soft, gray-green foliage and produces small yellow flowers. It may require staking, especially in a windy location or a spot that sees a lot of foot traffic.
Because of its aromatic quality (having a scent very like culinary curry spice blends) curry plant is often promoted as an aromatic herb. Its common name derives from its scent, which can smell like curry. When placed along a walkway, the aroma can be unexpected and enticing. To some people, curry plant doesn’t smell as much like curry as something else — maple syrup.
Although prized mostly for its fragrance and garden interest, leaves of the curry plant’s mild flavor can be used for seasoning — chopped fine, it compliments dishes with ingredients like eggs, yogurt, mild cheeses, and even fish. Used in an herb wreath, swag or even potpourri, curry plant will look and smell nice there as well.