Growing Lemon Grass
Tips on Growing Lemon Grass
Herb gardening is a way to have the freshest and the hard to find herbs close at hand; growing lemon grass is a classic example. Although the lemony herb is used in many Thai and Asian recipes, it can be hard to find in your typical local grocery stores and expensive when it is found. Growing the herb in your garden will ensure a fresh, delicious supply whenever you should need it.
Lemon grass is a perennial herb that is used extensively in Thai, Vietnamese and Asian cooking. It is an aromatic and while it is considered to be a tropical herb, is much hardier than one might think. The plant itself is an attractive one; tall, sharp spears of grass that grow into a cascading bush like plant. It can achieve heights of up to 9 feet in the most ideal of conditions which include mild winters. In harsher climates where it needs to be brought indoors for the winter, expect the plant to reach only around 3 to 4 feet tall. The root is similar in appearance to that of a scallion; bulbous and pinkish white in color with stubs of root emerging from the bottom.
Starting the plant is easy. A gardener can either purchase a small plant from a nursery or garden shop if they are available, or start a plant from a stalk found in the grocery store. The herb can also be started from seed; however, yields from the plant will take at least a year. When starting with a purchased lemon grass stalk, choose the freshest looking stalk with root stubs that can be seen under the surface of the outer skin layer. If lucky enough to find stalks with roots still intact, these will be the best alternative. Once you have the stalks home, trim any dead leaves. Simply place them in a jar with just a few inches of water and place the jar in a sunny window. Now just keep an eye on the water level to ensure it doesn’t dry out. Soon, small roots will begin to emerge. When the roots are at least an inch long, fill a planter with potting soil and place the stalks so that the crown sits just below the surface.
Growing lemon grass requires a sunny location. It must be kept moist but not soggy; good drainage of the plant is a must. The plant can either remain in the container or be planted directly into the soil. As soon as the plant is well established, the delicious leaves can begin to be harvested.
To use the herb, pull stalks from the ground, including the roots. Clean well, and trim the roots away. The best part of the leaves is the tender whitish part near the bulb, but the sharp upper leaves also have great value. While they are too stringy to be edible, they are great for use as flavoring in soups and teas. Wrapping them around pieces of chicken or fish and then grilling imparts delicious lemony flavor into the food. There are many uses for the lemon grass; the leaves can be snipped and added to numerous dishes. They can also be pounded with a mallet into a paste and then added into the recipes.
Growing your own herbs is not only a healthy alternative to purchasing them in stores; it also provides fresh herbs when you need them. And when the herb is an elusive one such as lemon grass, it makes an uncommon herb one that is readily available for your delicious and healthy recipes.