Scientific Name: Cymbopogon citratus
Lemongrass is a half-hardy perennial grass, growing in clumps.
It has a narrow leaf blade, sharp and rough to touch, with a strong lemony scent when crushed between the fingers. It has robust cane-like stems. The leaf can grow 90cm or more in length. When light levels drop, Lemongrass goes dormant. It is sensitive to frost, but bounces back in spring when the weather warms up. Reduce watering in winter. In spring, as the plant starts to grow, cut back to 15cm above ground and clean out all dead growth.
Propagate new plants by division - leaving at least 2 crowns per clump. Plant the offsets 2,5cm deep in rich soil. The mother-plant will grow for 3-4 years without being moved. Lemongrass can be grown as an ornamental pot plant. If planted in a container, re-pot regularly.
Lemongrass is native to Southern India and Sri Lanka and is now cultivated in tropical regions around the world for its useful & popular essential oil.
Both stem and leaf can be harvested.
Stems of about 20cm in length can be cut or twisted out of the clump & stripped of their leaves. Thinner stems will have softer fibres. They look like pencils or thick spring onions. Leaf can be harvested right through the summer months and used fresh or dry.
Stem & leaf have an intense lemon flavour & fragrance
The leaf and chopped stems of Lemongrass contribute a subtle lemon flavour soups, marinades, stir-fries, curries, salads and pickles, and are an essential ingredient in oriental dishes. Lemongrass is the perfect partner for coconut milk, especially in those dishes using fish, seafood and chicken. Sereh powder (ground dried lemongrass) can be used in the place of fresh. One teaspoon is equivalent to one stalk. Use it as an alternative for lemon rind.
Preparation tips for using the stalk:
Trim and discard the hard "root end" of the stem and remove all the leaf sheaths, then slice thinly from the bulbous end.
The tough top end of the stem can be bruised in a pestle and mortar and added to gravies and soups for extra flavour, but remember to remove it before serving.
Lemongrass stems will keep well in the vegetable compartment of the fridge for up to 2-3 weeks if wrapped in a paper bag, or wax wrap. Slice or pound the stem and freeze it.
Lemongrass leaf can be dried whole or cut into small pieces. Store in a screw top glass jar until required.
A tea from the fresh leaves is a tonic and stimulant.
- It remedies liver complaints.
- It relaxes the muscles of the stomach and gut; relieves cramping pains and flatulence.
- It is highly regarded as a fever-reducing herb.
- It is a successful immune strengthening herb.
A paste of the pounded leaves can be smeared on ringworm.
Lemongrass is a gentle and pleasant tasting herb and is particularly suitable for children.
Lemongrass essential oil is antiseptic, rich in Vitamin A and is a good cleanser for oily skin. Its oil is widely used as a culinary flavourant, in perfumes and as a medicine. The essential oil with citral and citronellal as its main constituents are applied externally in poultices to ease pain and arthritis. It is a very popular herb for repelling insects — mosquitoes and flies — and is often found in creams and lotions for this purpose.
It is also added to candle wax to make insect repelling candles.