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.  

A young lemongrass. It's called fever grass in the Caribbean.

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.

A mature lemongrass plant. It is filling in nicely after being pruned way back.

This is what our lemongrass looked like after lots of plumes, a very cold winter and a haircut. The picture above this one is the same lemongrass plant just a couple months later.

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.

This is the base of a very small stalk that I used for the picture... and then my iced tea.

I slice the stalk right down the middle with a knife and the outer husk just pops right off.

This is what I use to cook and eat. Sometimes I cut it into really small slices. The aroma is heavenly. That's probably why the essential oil is used for perfumes and candles.

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!

22 Responses to “Lemongrass, The Forgotten One”

  1. I think next Spring I’m going to grow some lemongrass. We use lemongrass extact mixed with olive oil and beeswax to attract honey bee swarms in our swarm boxes.

    • I have a friend that rubs a little essential oil of lemongrass (mixed with olive oil) on the inside of his box to attract a swarm. Sounds like you do the same thing. I wonder if fresh lemongrass rubbed on the inside would work the same as the oil? Lemongrass deters most insects, I find it interesting that bees like it. —It’s just an all-around great plant. I killed one when I transplanted it one time because I didn’t give it enough water. I learned that it needs a lot of water to get established, but after it does, it doesn’t require much care. When you get one in the ground, mulch it good (but not right up against the plant).

  2. Give you another beautiful lemongrass recipe : pork chop + oyster sauce + fish sauce + chopped up finely lemongrass, lots of it. Add more of each ingredient if you want to quick it straightaway or you r can leave in fridge for a few hours. Pan fry or grill. Super easy and super yummy!!!

    I have 5 tufts of lemongrass growing in my garden but after two years their stems are still so skinny. I am not sure if it is the soil. I did give them blood and bone and composted manure. They look good and leafy but just too skinny to be used. Recently I just pulled some out and replanted into pots and hope this will give me a better result.

    • Thank you for the wonderful recipe, I can’t wait to try it. I happen to have those ingredients in the pantry so I’ll be able to try it right away.

      Sorry to hear your lemongrass isn’t thriving. I’ve had some do the same thing to me before. I think you are right in your soil assessment. Could you could try moving one of the tufts to a different location to see if it does better? Don’t give up on ’em.

    • I learned recently that the lemongrass with the large bulbs is not a different variety. They thin out the bulbs as they’re growing to get a few bigger bulbs instead of a bunch of skinny bulbs.

  3. I love jasmine green tea ,can’t find it in the stores any more ,cause that the only green tea I like.

  4. hi, got directed to yr post frm fb, any tips on getting started with growing lemongrass? Can I just leave stalks i bought frm supermarket in water for them to sprout roots or must they be grown frm seeds? Thanks.

    • Hi Pat, I’m not sure what fb is, but I’m happy they directed you to me. The answer to your question is a big YES, you can sprout your store-bought stalks in a jar of water and watch them sprout roots. (Change the water every day).

      My lemongrass plants re-seed themselves all over the place in our yard and I’m letting them grow. So, I think seeds and sprouting the stalk are both a great way to grow a lemongrass bush. Good luck!

      • thanks for the prompt reply. Sorry I took for granted you were aware of the link to yr blog on facebook. Anyway, thanks again for answering my query.

      • Ahhh, facebook. You must think I’m an idiot for not getting that. I’ve never joined any of the social networking sites.

        Thanks for letting me know about the wonderful link.

  5. Kathryn Says:

    That recipe sounds delicious. I have heard there are two different types of lemon grass – one with fat bases for cooking and another one that stays skinny and is used only for tea. That would explain why some can’t get the bulbous part to grow. When I planted lemon grass, I did some from stalks sprouted from the store and some from a nursery transplant because I am suspicious that the transplant is only the skinny kind. So far, it looks like I might be right.

    • Kathryn~ Wow! That is so interesting. I’ve never heard that before but it makes sense. My lemon grasses get huge but the bases never get as fat as the ones I see in the grocery stores. I’m going to sprout some of the big bulbs from the Asian market and turn this into an experiment too. You gave us some very useful information.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment about it, I really appreciate it.

  6. i wanna try that chicken and pork recipe.hmmm, yummy. let me share also this refreshing lemon grass juice with gelatin. you can use unflavored gelatin, any color, cut it into small cubes,keep in the fridge. then boil a stalk or two of lemongrass with 1L water, add 2 cups of brown sugar simmer for 15mins. let cool then strain. put some crushed iced in a glass(half full) add 2 tbsp of gelatin cubes then pour in the lemon grass syrup, a healthy drink to enjoy. 🙂

  7. Thank you! We bought some lemongrass and planted it just recently and I wasnt sure which part could be used as the grass is quite tall, but the stalks are still young. Thanks for sharing.

    • My lemongrass has re-seeded itself everywhere, which is fine with me. It has also turned into giant plants… 12 feet to the top of its plumes full of seeds.

      The stalks are the best part for culinary use. I’ve noticed that if I stay on top of maintaining the plants and thin them out at the base, the stalks will get fat. If I neglect them while they grow, the stalks get clumpy and dense which keeps the stalks thin. I like them fat.

  8. Nice article. Hope mine survives the winter. Its 2 seasons old now but was in a pot in the hot house last winter in Alabama zone 8a . Was browseing for a bee swarm attractant when I happened on your page. Started mine from seed with 25% germination rate. Use it for my home grown teas , and cover for hunting.

  9. I planted mine last year (Marion, FL) and they survived the winter but are skinny. I’m also wondering if there are skinny and fat varieties. I have some of the thick ones that I bought for cooking in the frige. I think I’ll put them in water as you have suggested and see if they sprout some roots. Thanks for all the info.

  10. I decided to check about varieties of lemongrass and accoding to this latimes article, there are two:

    Two varieties are commonly found in nurseries: West Indian lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus) and East Indian lemon grass (Cymbopogon flexuosus). Both can be used for cooking, but the thicker West Indian variety is better.


  11. I had a lemongrass plant in a container in Virginia that was doing great…we recently moved to Florida and the plant does not seem to be thriving… Just staying alive but not spreading or growing as it was. I cut it back thinking that would help but it still has not done any thing.

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