Botanical Name: Cymbopogon citratus
Some other names: Citronella grass, sweet rush, fever grass, camel’s hay
How to grow it:
Lemongrass is a perennial clumping grass to about 1 metre. It is harvested for the green leaves & white tender bases used extensively in Asian cooking.
It originates from a tropical climate and so it will do best in subtropical and tropical climates, but with some frost protection, will grow in cooler areas too. Loves heat and water, so you’ll do much better if you can create that sort of microclimate.
Will do OK in poor soils, but can be amazingly fast growing if given moist, well drained, fertile soil. Responds very well to mulching and high nitrogen fertilisers.
Propogation is by separating the “bulbs” at the base of the plant. Any piece with some roots attached will strike easily. For a large amount of plants, try putting a spade through the centre of your existing patch, dig half the clump up, remove the soil & carefully separate the roots. You’ll get lots of small & large pieces for replanting.
Will also do well in pots – keep them mulched, watered and fertilised. Pots could be a very good option in cooler areas as the plant could be moved to a protected position in winter.
Nutrition:Stalks contain Vitamins A, B, & C, iron, chromium, calcium and potassium.
An herbal tea made from the leaves is thought to be good for fever, digestive problems, and is even thought to have anti-cancer properties. Research is continuing.
Using it in the kitchen:
If you enjoy asian cooking, then it should be almost compulsory for you to have lemongrass in your own garden. The distinctive flavour of fresh lemongrass from your own garden cannot be compared to any preserved product, or even fresh product more than a couple of days out of the garden.
Prepare by cutting the stalks off at the base & again where the white parts meet the green parts. Peel off a couple of outer layers to reveal the white tender inner parts of the stalk
Use it with garlic, chilli and/or ginger for a wide range of soups, curries & stir fries.
When cooking soups, I don’t bother cutting the stalks off – I just tie the whole cut plant in a knot, and submerge the lower parts into the broth. You can then just remove prior to serving – the flavour would have all transferred to the soup.
You can also use the green parts of the leaves and/or the stalks for making tea – try it with some of your other tea herbs.
Lemongrass makes a great source of mulch. Regularly cut the green parts back for mulching garden beds or adding to compost – you can harvest many times a year.
Also a great plant for erosion control and for creating natural barriers for weeds and small animals.
In my book, Lemongrass qualifies as a survival food as it’s so hardy & easy to grow and is great for flavouring food. I’d also use the tea for fever in a survival situation and it’s a useful source of garden mulch.