Thursday, May 27, 2010

Home Grown Greens/Herbs - Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus)

This year I am experimenting with growing! I have grown different herbs and lemongrass has been one of great joy. A little investment in time and effort has given fabulous dividends enjoyed not only by me and my family, but all of my friends too! Lemongrass is very easy to grow. I grew mine from the purchased stalks; I kept them in a jar of water to keep them fresh and lo and behold! they rooted very quickly. They have been planted in the garden and are growing beautifully. Lemongrass can be purchased as seedlings from a nursery and apparently you can grow it from seeds also. They are quite decorative as well as functional - can be grown in a pot or in the ground.

Native to Asia, Lemongrass thrives in warm climates; I am not sure how hardy they are in temperate zones. They do well in most mild winter areas. The one downside to lemongrass is that the edges of the leaves are razor sharp; so be careful when harvesting or working around it - I highly recommend wearing long garden gloves to protect your arms as well as hands.

Although most species are primarily grown for the essential oil for use in perfumes and soaps, some are highly valued in cooking as well as for their medicinal qualities. Lemongrass is used in Ayurveda and in other Asian medicine systems. It is used medicinally in myriad ways: to cool fevers; aid digestion, assuaging flatulence, cramps, and colic; alleviate menstrual cramps, inflammations, and pain; as an expectorant; in reducing cholesterol; and last but not least as an aromatic herb in cooking.

Of all the many species of lemongrass, Cymbopogon citratus is the one best suited for cooking. It is known as "inji pullu" (ginger grass) in Tamil and Malayalam. I love the refreshing intense citrus flavor they impart to Teas, Rasam, and Asian style soups and curries. I am experimenting and learning to incorporate it in more dishes; the flavorful lemongrass rasam was a huge success. Lemongrass tea is absolutely delicious hot or cold - Paji can attest to that wholeheartedly; he only guzzles down a couple of quarts of it daily! As he sips from his tall glass of the iced tea, he waxes poetic and says "drinking lemongrass tea is like drinking cool, mellow sunshine"! And what do you know, Tara shares the sentiment and said exactly the same words!

I use the outer leaves of lemongrass for tea and use the tender inner stalks for cooking - nothing wasted! Of course the whole stalks can be used for making tea also. Some people find the flavor of lemongrass a bit strong; I have used mint and ginger along with it to mellow out its flavor but still obtain the health benefits. Lemongrass can also be chopped and dried for later use. Just wash, chop into small pieces, spread on a clean towel to dry in a cool area like the kitchen counter or on a table until completely dry and store in clean airtight jar.

Simple Lemongrass Tea

1 stalk or a few outer leaves of lemongrass, chopped
1 quart (4 cups) fresh water

Bring the water to a brisk boil; turn off heat.

Stir in lemongrass and cover. Let steep for a few minutes - about 5 to 10 would be sufficient.

Enjoy your cup of 'mellow sunshine' hot or cold, sweetened or not. Cheers!

Lemongrass and Ginger Tea: Follow the directions for simple lemongrass tea above but with the addition of 3 or 4 thin slices of Fresh Ginger or more.


Anonymous said...

My cousin recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!

Geetha said...

Thank you Anon. for the compliments; please thank your cousin too for her recommendation!

Geetha said...

Hello Karen, Thank you for your compliments and comments!I'd love your feedback when you try the recipes. Happy cooking!