Lemongrass is a tall perennial
grass. Common names include lemon grass, lemongrass,
barbed wire grass, silky heads, citronella grass,
fever grass or Hieba Luisa amongst many others.
Lemongrass is widely used as a herb in Asian (particularly Vietnamese, Hmong, Khmer, Thai, Lao, Malaysian, Indonesian, Philippine, Sri Lankan) and Caribbean cooking. It has a citrus flavor and can be dried and powdered, or used fresh.
For soups and simmered
dishes, cut the trimmed stalk at a very sharp angle
into inch-long pieces, exposing its fragrant interior.
Smash with the flat blade of a cleaver or heavy knife
to bruise and release the aromatic oils before adding
to these dishes.
For salads, cut with a sharp knife into very thin rounds, breaking up the fibers that run the length of the stalk. When slicing, if the outer layer seems fibrous, peel it off before proceeding. Such thinly sliced rounds of the inner stalk can be easily chewed with other salad ingredients for a refreshing burst of lemony herb flavor.
For curries, cut the stalk into thin rounds before pounding in a stone mortar to reduce to paste. Although lemon grass appears dry when you are slicing it, when crushed, you will see that it really is quite moist. Crushing breaks the juice sacs in the fibers and releases the aromatic oils that make lemon grass so special.
Cultivation of Lemongrass
Site: Plant Lemongrass in full sun in rich, well-draining soil. Lemongrass also works well in containers. We recommend a three-gallon pot.
Propagation: Lemongrass is easily propagated by root division. When dividing clumps, each stalk should have about one-inch of root attached. For better success, cut the blades to about two-inches before dividing. Lemongrass has a very extensive root system. So, for potted plants, it is important to divide it yearly.
Growing: Allow soil to dry between waterings in the growing season. Water sparingly in winter.
Fertilize every two weeks during the growing season. Most balanced fertilizers are adequate, but 15-30-15 worked best in our trials. Time-release granules also work well. Fertilizing is not necessary during the winter.
This tender perennial can be grown year-round outdoors in USDA Zones 8-12 (southern United States). In cold climates, Lemongrass should be overwintered inside. It is easily dug up and re-potted, if necessary. When frozen, Lemongrass will die.
Pests and diseases are very infrequent.
Harvesting: Blades must be 12-inches tall before cutting. If you're harvesting for food, cut about one-inch above the crown. If you cut any lower, that section of the plant will not re-grow.
Culinary Uses: Lemongrass has long been in used for teas, soups and in Oriental cooking. Just about every part of Lemongrass can be used, including the leaf tips, tender shoots and whole leaves. Snip a few leaves into a pot of tea for a refreshing flavor and added aroma. For a delicate hint of lemon, add a bunch of Lemongrass to the water used for steaming meats and vegetables. Add the tender shoots to a stir fry for a subtle, yet exotic flavor enhancement.