For anyone who loves a curry it is great to be able to grow your own ingredients, even if you live in the UK and colder climates!
Not all spices can be grown outdoors in the UK. Some will only be grown indoors with the help of a grow lamp and being kept away from draughts. Others will need special help overwinter and a little bit of knowledge will go a long way with the perennials. Some like ginger, kaffir lime, curry leaf plant and turmeric will take patience before you can harvest.
Let’s look at all the foibles of growing your own curry.
Curry Spices You Can Grow In The UK
Really I don’t just mean the UK as these are Tropical to sub-Tropical plants that will thrive in warmer climates. Bear in mind that herbs like cardamom will grow outdoors in the UK, however they will not reach maturity to produce fruit and therefore cardamom pods. If we grow them indoors as very relaxed house plants who are also edible then we stand a chance in using them in our cooking.
So we are looking at plants that will grow outdoors and thrive as well as plants that you can keep as house plants and harvest as you go. Either way you can grow curry ingredients in pots and enjoy the splendor of these unusual houseplants.
Growing Turmeric For The Ultimate Curry
Turmeric is a sub-tropical plant that grows from rhizomes. Much like ginger you will need a warm spot to get it started and then bury about half an inch into a rich compost. Keep moist but not wet. Make sure that there is adequate sunlight hours as when it bursts forth it will need as much sunlight as possible. This is where a sunlamp can come in handy.
Over winter you will need to keep it warm but reduce the watering as it will need a dormant period. You should be able to make your first harvest around 300 days after planting. However it does make a lovely houseplant and it will grow to be around 3 feet high when mature.
Click here for our full article on growing turmeric. We also go through harvesting and storing your turmeric in this article as you will need to use a dehydrator to dry it out fully before use.
Growing Ginger As A Curry Essential
Yes ginger will grow in pots and make a lovely houseplant. You can find success growing ginger in a heated green house or conservatory as well.
Plant the rhizomes that are showing signs of wanting to grow. Really if you purchase ginger as an organic product you should be able to grow on from supermarket bought root. This is because they do not spray the growth suppressant chemical on the rhizomes, you will often see them sprouting when they are organic.
TOP TIP – With ginger and turmeric plant in a pot that you want to fill with roots. These are your crops so don’t go stingy with the size of your pot. You can also leave stock in for the following year as your new crop.
Plant in a pot with great drainage and water well, not too much and not too little. Click here for our full article on growing Ginger from seed. It is a slow process to grow from seed but worth it for those of us who like the pink ginger that has a sweeter flavor, not essential for curry lovers though.
You can harvest when the leaves are fading and use fresh or dried. For a full guide on drying times for herbs and spices have a look at our dehydrator guide here.
Curry Leaf Plant
By using your curry leaves like bay leaves you can infuse an extra layer of flavor into your cooking. Very common fresh or dried in recipes and will add a certain something to your conservatory too.
You will need to grow it in a pot in the UK and while you can move to a sunny sheltered patio you would need to ensure that the outside temperature does not dip below 5 degrees C at any point – including overnight.
Click here for our full article on growing a Curry Leaf Plant. The article includes growing from seed or cuttings, but to be honest you can buy a plant and keep it alive. Increase the size of the pot each year and make sure to add feed during the growing season. When it is Winer provide a growing lamp for 6 hours a day but limit the water a little to allow for a semi-dormant period.
Harvest the leaves only when your curry leaf plant is large enough to take a trim and still thrive.
If you are totally afraid of growing this tropical tree you could think about a bay tree instead. Have a look at the differences between bay leaves and curry leaves if you are not sure it would work!
Two Types Of Coriander For Curry Lovers
I am looking here at the two types of coriander that you can grow in the UK. One is very much aimed at growing for the leaves which we use in a garnish. This is where the controversy in our house starts as I have the gene that depicts the flavor of coriander to be soapy and very unpleasant, whereas everyone else has a lovely refreshing citrus zing.
The fresh coriander leaves are called cilantro in the USA and this helps to distinguish between the two types. If you want to learn about replacing coriander leaves we do have more here. But if you love a bunch of coriander you can easily grow it on the windowsill and use as a cut and come again garnish for just as you are serving your hot curry.
Then there is the variety more often grown to produce coriander seeds. These are great with toasted in a curry with onions at the very start. They form a great basis of any spiced dish and don’t share that weird soapy taste like the fresh leaves do.
Grow & Make Your Own Paprika
Paprika is not just used in curries but goulash and paella are great traditional recipes that need either a hot or sweet paprika. By growing your own chili peppers and bell peppers you can then dry and process them to make hot, sweet or even smoked paprika. Very easy to process when you have a dehydrator and either a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder that has been repurposed for spices!
For our full article on making your own paprika have a look here.
The most expensive spice in the world, but you can grow at home! Used to flavor and color rice dishes amongst other cuisine. We love to grow our own and harvesting is simple too.
One of the few spices that you can happily grow outside in pots in the UK, saffron offers Autumnal ? Fall color in your garden as well! Bulbs can even sustain -15 degree C temperatures. So kind of perfect for a British Summer time. I’m only half joking about the Summer time, but you can pot them up any time between August and October and then harvest after they have flowered. You are harvesting the three stigma that grow in the center of the crocus. They take no time at all to dry out and will store for a year or more.
Saffron bulbs can be grown in pots and are great for small space gardens or patios alike. They will naturalize so planting in the ground is a great way to allow them a bit of space, or you can separate after year two.
You do need time though as harvesting is time consuming. Click here for our full article on growing Saffron Crocus
Garlic can be grown in pots or in a large bed. The quantity of garlic you grow is up to you but we are avid consumers of this allium. One packet of cloves will be sufficient for a family of four, but you can plant different varieties and you will get a much wider range in your nursery than supermarket. So go for reds or giant bulbs, something a little bit different.
Double digging the bed is essential as good drainage is required. Then plant one clove, two bulbs distance apart. Water well and leave to watch the shoots emerge.
Click here for our full article on growing Garlic, this also contains information on how to hang and store your garlic as it is vital to keep your crop safe for cooking.
How To Grow Fennel Seeds For Curries
Fennel is relatively easy to grow in the UK and can be grown in pots or towards the back of a border. It will add a real architectural beauty to your garden and be one of those plants that people love to touch as well. Plant in a position with full sun and allow it to receive adequate water in drier periods. Once the umbelliferous flowers have come and you have enjoyed the bees buzzing around these magnificent 6 foot high flowers, then they will start to turn.
Once they have gone over cut them down and hang them in bunches of 4-5 slower stems. Use a paper bag to put over their flower heads and then you will catch all of the seeds. The seed heads need to have sort of turned skeletal but not gone black or brown before you cut them down. After three weeks of hanging in a cool, airy, dark place you can shake them and hear the seeds falling through. They may need a littler persuading but that works as a quick fix.
TOP TIP – Not all of your fennel seed heads will be ready at the same time. So a little bit of a job in the evenings to check and remove those that are ready. You will end up with several bunches of bags hanging upside down in Autumn/Fall and it will take a little explaining to visitors. Try to find somewhere cool but airy to do all of this hanging!
Cardamom As A Houseplant
Cardamom will grow adequately in the UK as ground cover under larger trees and is really lovely from a foliage point of view. If grown outside it is unlikely that you will achieve a long enough growing period for flowers to form and therefore cardamom pods. So better off to grow indoors and then you can harvest your food!
Click here for our full article on growing cardamom. A constant temperature will be your best option with getting your cardamom to flower. The foliage will be a lovely feature of this houseplant, however you may need a grow light to get the results you want for a crop. Cardamom do love a well lit bathroom or conservatory and will thrive with a foliar spray feed occasionally.
Lemongrass For Thai Green Curry
Lemongrass is an absolute must for any Thai curry enthusiasts. It will go well with other ornamental grasses in your garden. However it will need special care overwinter and planting it in the ground whilst still being in it’s pot is a really great way to achieve a naturalized look.
Lemongrass will thrive with a bit of a cut back each year and you will be able to have an annual harvest. Lemongrass does in fact dry quite well and using ground lemongrass in many dishes is great.
Click here for our full article on growing Lemongrass. We will be posting some recipe ideas in the coming months so be sure to look out for those too.
Kaffir Lime Tree – Not Just For Curry, Pickles Too
Kaffir lime is a great addition to a curry, use the leaves as you would do bay leaves or use the peel of the fruit as a pickle ingredient. Never use the kaffir lime as a fruit though as it is far more bitter than you will like!
In the UK kaffir lime trees will grow well outdoors in the Summer months, but be sure to bring them inside for Winter and really before you start to get frost warnings. You can harvest from around the second year if you are growing from seed. Again though kaffir lime trees can be purchased at a few years old and this saves you a relatively long germination time. But if you would like to read more about propagation from cuttings or seed, click here for our full article on growing Kaffir Lime.
Top Tips For Curry Spices As House Plants
- Do not put your exotic plants near a radiator. The drying effect can literally cook and desiccate the delicate leaves. Sometimes this impact is felt more strongly by the roots and you will not have any indication until too late. Curry spices tend to grow naturally in warm climates but without extremes of heat to the roots.
- Think about the climate of your curry spices, they tend towards warm and moist. Invest in a plant mister and think about adding some Epsom salts to give an extra boost to foliar sprays.
- Mulch or feed the soil. Houseplants get forgotten about and many of these curry spices you are growing will be native to fertile, rich loamy soils. Liquid feed is fine, if added to the base of the plants and not to the leaves as it will be too strong and potentially scorch the plants.
- Hours of sunlight is key to success. We plant fennel outside and make sure it is in the sunniest spot, but plants like Kaffir lime and Curry leaf plants will need to be brought outside in Summer. So use a lightweight plant pot and think about wheels as a base.
- Potentially think about investing in a grow light. Gone are the days where you would be flagged for even thinking about a grow light, they are much more common and Amazon sell a range of lights starting from £26 upwards. Go for one with a timer and then you can even go on holiday knowing that your curry spices are happily growing at home.
- Curry spices grow in areas with lots of drainage. So a passive watering system may be the answer if you have included adequate drainage.
- Final tip is really not to allow them to drop below 5 degrees C. Anything approaching this and you will want to wrap in fleeces or bring inside and avoid the Great British Summertime.
What Next & Further Reading
- Fennel Seeds Vs Cumin Seeds Important Differences
- How To Grow Cumin Cuminum Cyminum From Seed
- Cooking with Spices: 100 Recipes for Blends, Marinades, and Sauces from Around the World by Mark C Stevens