Growing lemongrass isn’t that hard. Once you get a thriving bunch established, you’ll have more lemongrass than you know what to do with.
How to Grow Lemongrass :
Lemongrass is a sub-tropical plant and it can’t handle hard freezing temperatures. If you live anywhere colder than about a zone 9a, you’ll want to grow your lemongrass in a pot, and bring it indoors for the winter. And even then, you might want to bring it in, just in case you get an unexpected temperature drop (the weather seems to be doing all sorts of funny things these days).
Grow your lemongrass in full sun, with plenty of water, in a rich, well-draining soil. If you’re growing it in a pot, top-dress it with compost or worm castings every couple of weeks, to make sure it’s getting plenty of nutrients.
Lemongrass will naturally propagate itself, once it is established. Small stalks of new plants will begin to grow off the side of existing stalks (see picture below).
There are a handful of different varieties of lemongrass, though a lot of times, it’s not specified which variety you’re purchasing, whether in seed form or in stalks. I’ve grown at least two different varieties of lemongrass, though I don’t know what they’re called. I only know they were different because one had red streaks along the lower half of the leaves, and the other one didn’t.
Lemongrass will germinate within a week or two, and if our experience is typical, the seed has a high germination rate. Keep the seeds moist and in a warm spot until they germinate. Transplant them to a pot (these planter tubs would be a great option) when they’re about six inches tall, spacing them about 2-3 inches apart, and making sure they’ll have plenty of space for good root growth.
If you want to root your own lemongrass from stalks bought in a store or at a farmer’s market, simply place them in a jar with an inch or two of water, and let them sit until the roots begin to grow. Be sure to change out the water every couple of days. Once you begin to see new leaves growing, you’ll know that the lemongrass has enough roots and you can plant them in a pot.
To harvest a stalk of lemongrass, grasp firmly near the base of the stem and pull. The inner, white core is what is used in cooking, though the leaves can also be used to make a light, lemony tea.
Remove the outer green leaves and finely chop or grate the lemongrass. When I use it to flavour plain rice, I put the chopped lemongrass in a kitchen muslin bag and sink it in the water the rice is cooking in. Once the rice is done, I simply remove the bag.
In some parts of India, lemongrass is considered to be an essential plant in the mind-body medicinal practice of Ayurveda. It is commonly used to alleviate colds and congestion and some people compare it to ginger in this regard. Interestingly enough, in Kerala, India, the name for lemongrass translates to “dried ginger coffee.”
Fresh or dried lemongrass can be steeped or boiled to make a herbal infusion or decoction. You can chop the fresh leaves or simply break up dried leaves. Generally speaking, about one teaspoon of lemongrass leaves per cup of boiling water is a good ratio.
Lemongrass is also an ingredient in many herbal tea blends. It is particularly popular in green tea blends. Due to its healing properties, it’s also found in detox teas. At times, you might even find it in Americanized masala chai spice mixtures, especially those that include plenty of ginger.
To make lemongrass tea:
- Pour 1 cup boiling water over 1 to 3 teaspoons fresh or dried lemongrass
- Steep for at least five minutes
- Strain the tea
- Enjoy hot or add ice cubes for iced lemongrass tea.
Lemongrass is a popular herb for cooking and it is used in a wide range of food recipes. It’s common in Asian foods and found most often in Thai cuisine. Since it is rather fibrous and can even be woody, it’s best when finely minced. Similar to bay leaves, if you use larger pieces, remove them before serving.
Lemongrass is a very nice complement to chicken and seafood. Try it in recipes like roasted lemongrass chicken, which has a sweet lime sauce, or the zesty Thai lemon-lime shrimp. Lemongrass can also be nice with beef, pork, or lamb. The lemongrass lamb chop recipe is one you won’t want to pass up.
Lemongrass is gaining some notoriety in adult beverages as well. There are a number of cocktail recipes that playoff its pungent flavour. The Soho cocktail, for instance, combines the herb with ginger, mint, gin, and ginger ale. That famous duo of lemongrass and ginger can also be used to create an amazing tequila infusion.
When playing with herbal drink recipes, you’ll also find that lemongrass pairs well with coconut milk, chilli peppers, cucumber, and pear. Have fun with it, either using a chilled lemongrass tea or muddling it with other ingredients. Fresh lemongrass stems can even be used as a natural straw or stir stick for your drinks.
Lemongrass Health Benefits
Research published in the Food and Chemical Toxicology journal in the year 2011 revealed that lemongrass possesses anti-hyperlipidemic and anti-hypercholesterolemic properties that support healthy cholesterol levels.7 Studies have also shown that regular consumption helps in sustaining healthy levels of triglycerides and reducing the LDL cholesterol in the body.8 This helps in preventing the accumulation of lipids in the blood vessels and promotes an unobstructed flow of blood in the arteries, preventing various cardiac disorders such as atherosclerosis.
Lemongrass is effective in preventing the growth of cancer cells without affecting the healthy cells of the body. Research conducted to prove the anti-cancerous activity of lemongrass has shown promising outcomes in the prevention of skin cancer.10 This is mainly because of the presence of a chemical compound called citral in it.
3.Detoxifies the Body
According to a 2003 study, lemongrass helps in cleansing and flushing harmful toxic wastes out of the body, as a result of its diuretic properties.9 Detoxification helps in the regulation of various organs of the body, including the liver and kidney, while also helping to lower the levels of uric acid. The diuretic effect of the herb helps in increasing the quantity and frequency of urination, which helps in maintaining digestive health, eliminating accrued fats, and assisting in maintaining a clean system.
Lemongrass aids in calming muscles and nerves, which helps in inducing deep sleep. Research has shown that its herbal tea has sedative and hypnotic properties which help in increasing the duration of sleep.
5.Relieves Pain & Inflammation
Lemongrass is effective in relieving the pain and discomfort caused by rheumatism. It can be applied topically on both lumbago and sprains and helps in relieving neuralgia.
Lemongrass is a febrifuge and is also known as the ‘fever grass’, owing to its beneficial effects in lowering fever. The anti-pyretic and diaphoretic effect is extensively used in Ayurvedic medicine for curing fevers by inducing sweating.
Studies have shown that lemongrass essential oil has anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties which help in fighting the infections caused by various pathogens such as Helicobacter pylori and Escherichia coli.15 It is beneficial in the prevention of gastrointestinal disorders such as gastric ulcers, helps in stimulating the bowel function, and improves digestion.16 The anti-inflammatory property of the herb is beneficial for treating constipation, ulcerative colitis, diarrhea, nausea and stomach aches.
Lemongrass has been proven beneficial in treating type-2 diabetes. Studies have shown that the citral present in it help maintain optimum levels of insulin and improve the tolerance of glucose in the body.
9.Antibiotic Properties Against Staphylococcus aureus
Research conducted at the School of Health, The University of Northampton, UK and published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology has shown that lemongrass essential oil has an anti-biofilm capacity and is beneficial against the infection caused by Staphylococcus aureus.13 It contains phenols which possess the capability to spread quickly through the body tissues and cure biofilms located anywhere in the body.14 It disrupts the growth and communication of germs, which helps in inhibiting the formation of the biofilms. The herb’s essential oil is used for application, both topically as well as internally to cure the diseases diagnosed with biofilms, such as Lyme disease.
Lemongrass is widely used in Ayurvedic medicine for its healing effects in treating cough and cold. Along with other beneficial components, the vitamin C content present in it helps in providing relief from nasal blockages, flu and other respiratory disorders such as bronchial asthma.
Lemongrass contains citral, which has been proven to be effective in combating obesity. It prevents the accumulation of abdominal fat and promotes the use of stored energy, which helps in preventing diet-induced weight gain. It aids in healthy metabolism and enhances the oxidation of fatty acids in the body.