Lemon grass is a perennial herb that, once planted, grows back every year. It is used in a variety of Asian, Mexican and Caribbean food recipes. You can also use lemon grass in soups, stews and stuffings. It has a fresh lemony scent and a light flavor without the tart bite of the lemon fruit. Lemon grass teas has become a very popular drink. This herb has a slight, fresh lemony flavor.
Lemon grass has long, slender grayish-green leaves and a fibrous base. The oil of lemon grass is used in many perfumes, soaps and body lotions. The plant has been shown to have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.
Lemon grass stalks for growing can be obtained from your local gardening store or ethnic food store. Cut the stalks to a length of about a foot. The stalks can be rooted by placing them in a glass of water and locating them on a sunny window sill. In a few weeks, the plants will start to produce roots. Lemon grass can also be started from seeds planted outside or in pots. Plant seeds two inches deep and cover lightly with soil.
Lemon grass can be grown outside in the garden or indoors in pots. This plant grows well in a sunny spot in the garden. For planting, select the shoots from the cuttings that have developed a prolific growth of roots.
For outside planting, prepare the soil by adding a two inch layer of compost or dried manure to the soil. Your rooted plants can be transplanted to the garden when the outside temperature reaches about 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Till the soil well to a depth of about eighteen inches. Adding compost or fertilizer will provide nutrients for your growing plants. Adding compost or dried manure also improves soil drainage, especially if you have heavier clay soil.
Dig a hole and bury the rooted shoots about three inches in the soil. Be sure to allow plenty of room for the roots to expand. Cover the roots with dirt and lightly tamp down the soil. Water lightly.
When planting lemon grass in a pots, be sure to use a good, nutrient-rich potting soil. The pots should be at least six inches in diameter. Place the shoot in the pots and cover the roots to a depth of three inches. Place the plant on a sunny window sill and rotate the pots every few days for more even sunlight exposure. Water the potted plant when the soil becomes dry. Do not over-water as over-watering can lead to root rot.
When grown outside, lemon grass can grow five to seven feet tall. The plant can over-winter in cooler climates and start to rejuvenate during the spring. In winter, lemon grass can also be grown in a cold frame or greenhouse.
The tender white part of the stalk can be used for seasoning; the greener and drier parts can be used in soup stocks such as beef, chicken or pork. Lemon grass can be ground or chopped for use in recipes. Larger pieces of the stalk can be added while cooking then removed when the soup or stew has finished, much as you would use a bay leaf.
The oil of lemon grass, often called citronella, has long been used as a scent in soaps, perfumes and candles. Lemon grass was considered a sacred plant by many ancient peoples because of its healing properties. It has been used to cure headaches, fever and anxiety. Many people also drink lemon grass tea to help reduce cholesterol and high blood pressure.
The flavorful and aromatic lemon grass is a versatile plant you can easily grow both outside in your garden and inside in pots. With a little care, you can enjoy this popular herb year round.