Saturday, November 16, 2013

A chemistry of two leaves.

My wife and I were visiting a nursery when we came across an amazing plant. The nursery lady, told us that it was called “Basmati grass.” When crushed the leaves smell like basmati rice, and if you add it to rice when cooking, even ordinary rice can have the aroma of basmati rice. After a bit of research, I have learnt that the shrub belongs to the lily family and is native to Indonesia. It is called the ‘Screwpine’ or Pandan. The strap like leaves have the same volatile compound that gives basmati rice its distinct, nutty, aroma; 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline (also contributes to the aroma of crabmeat and popcorn).  

Seasoning of Indian curries is incomplete without the all important ‘curry leaves’ The curry leaf plant, ‘Murraya koenigii’ belongs to the citrus family. The leaves have subtle, woody fresh notes and are either simmered or briefly sautéed in cooking oil. These leaves contain a remarkable alkaloid called ‘carbazole’ – which is not only an antioxidant but also has anti-inflammatory properties. This molecule is also used as a precursor for anti-HIV, anti-cancer, antibacterial and anti-fungal drugs. 

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