Lemongrass, The Forgotten One
I just looooove lemongrass (Cymbopogon ciatrus). It surprises me how many people can’t identify it’s aroma. I think it’s way under-used in the U.S. But before I jump on my high horse, I have to tell you that it was growing in my yard for a long time (years) before I figured out what to do with it. I knew I was growing lemongrass, but really wasn’t sure how to use it. I’m glad I figured it out because it has become one of my garden favorites.
It’s really easy to grow. Once it gets established, it doesn’t need much care. I give mine a haircut once a year. It grows well in warm climates such as Florida, but won’t do well in colder climates. My lemongrass did survive the record freezes in Florida this past winter without a problem though. I’m proud of it.
The plant is a tall grass and gets beautiful plumes on it when it goes to seed. A lot of the leaves turn brown in the cold, like most grasses, but the plumes make that fact easy to ignore. I thought mine was a show-stopper. As I write this post, I’m thinking to myself that I need to plant more of it. The plant grows tall and wide though, so one is really enough for any garden. If you’re lucky enough to already have it in your yard, don’t ignore it. It’s awesome!
The edges of the leaves can be sharp, like the edges of paper. I handle mine with gloves if I’m cutting it back. If I’m getting a piece to cook with, I just cut an individual stalk (stem) off with a sharp knife at the base. I don’t need gloves for this. If you know somebody that already has some growing and you want some, just ask for a stalk that has been dug out with some roots on it.
The part of the plant that I like to use for flavor is the base of the stalk, but the leaves can be used as well. I cut off the top and use the bottom few inches. The bulbous bottom has a tough outer husk. This part is easily cut off and can be composted. The white inside is tender and full of flavor. You can chop it up, slice it, bruise it, mash it… whatever. I usually bruise mine with the back of my spoon and then slice it up. You could add the whole plant to a soup base and then remove it after its imparted its fabulous flavor. I frequently add lemongrass to lemonade, limeade, iced tea, stir-fries and rice.
My absolute favorite lemongrass meal is lemongrass coconut chicken. My family loves it. I just put canned coconut milk into a pan. I add about 3 tablespoons of fish sauce (available at almost any grocery store and can be used to flavor so many foods), fresh galangal or ginger, sliced lemongrass stalks, a little sugar and a few kaffir lime leaves. I let it simmer for about 5 minutes and then I add the chicken. I cover it and cook it for about another 15 minutes until the chicken is finished. When it’s finished I squeeze a fresh lime on it (if I’ve got it) and throw a little fresh basil on it (if I’ve got it). I serve it with rice. Sooooo delicious!
Lemongrass could be used in the kitchen everyday. It has a fabulous flavor, numerous health benefits and there are so many ways to use it. I’ve definitely talked myself into planting more. This is edible landscaping at its best.
Come grow with us!