A Few Facts About The Lemongrass Plant
The lemongrass plant is a perennial aromatic herb. As the name implies, it has a light lemon taste and scent and is not only used in cooking, but for medicinal purposes as well. The lemongrass plant has a rather pungent odor so only a small amount is needed in most culinary dishes or to make a lemongrass tea.
Nutritionally, lemongrass is mainly a source of carbohydrate, as well as being a source of vegetable protein, and is a rich in vitamin C as well. When used in cooking, the leaves can be sliced or shredded, or the bulb end of the stock can be bruised to release the flavor. Lemongrass has long been a part of Asian cuisine but recently has become more popular in the United States. It is also widely used for cooking in the Caribbean and in Mexico. Lemongrass has become very popular in the preparation of some Mexican dishes as it goes will with garlic and chilies. Fresh lemongrass stalks can often be found in Asian or Mexican grocery stores, and is often available in powdered form in the ethic sections of larger supermarkets. Lemongrass is at its best however when used soon after harvesting, in which case either the entire bulb is harvested or simply a number of the leaf stalks are removed.
As far as medicinal uses are concerned, no exaggerated claims are made for the lemongrass plant, but as it contains citral, the same active ingredient found in the peel of the lemon, it is a known digestive aid, and is also thought to be valuable in treating headaches, rheumatism, and muscle cramps. The aroma of the plant also lends itself to use in soaps and candles.
Planting Your Own Lemongrass - Many have started growing their own small crop as the lemongrass plant is not difficult to grow and is easy to propagate. The plant will overwinter in milder climates but is not frost hardy and is often taken indoors in colder climates. The plant will flourish the year around where the temperature does seldom dips below 45 degrees F.
Lemongrass can be planted from seeds, or if a fresh stalk is available, from slips of stalk, as long as each slip contains a small portion of the rhizome. The slips are placed in water, where they will take root, usually within a two-week period. This method usually won't work if the stalks that have been purchased or saved have become desiccated. The fresher the better is the rule of thumb for starting new plants from slips. The leaves can be pruned back and the leaf sheaths removed, as only a small stump is needed to start a new plant.
A clump of half a dozen or so plants will make a nice started crop, whether planted from seeds or from rooted slips. Lemongrass is a rather tall plant so space accordingly when planting. The plant will come back year after year and grow for many years, though those who grow them usually thin out and divide the plants after 4 or 5 years. Once planted, it will usually take a little over two months before the leaves are ready for harvesting. If planted in the southern tier of states, Zone 9 or above, the plants can normally be left in the ground all year. Lemon grass is a little too large to be grown indoors in pots but not so large that they could be kept in a greenhouse or an enclosed patio. This is a nice herb to have for use in the kitchen, and is easy to grow, a definite benefit for those living in areas where it is not readily found in the stores.