2.19 Lemon grass.

Latin names:
Cymbopogon flexuous -- East Indian lemongrass
Cymbopogon citratus -- West Indian lemongrass
Cymbopogon martinii -- palmarosa
Cymbopogon nardus -- citronella grass

2.19.2 Harvesting lemon grass

From: stoddard.aruba.ccit.arizona.edu (Mari J Stoddard)
Scissor off the top third of the leaves, [dry] and use in tea or potpourri. Do this whenever you have lots of points sticking up, rather than harvested edges. I love to mix it with mint and Texas Ranger (all three fresh off the plant). Supposed to be good for throat complaints (cough, soreness). Rose petals or hibiscus makes for a prettier color.

Cut off a clump to ground level, use bottom third in cooking - sliced fine or diced. Traditionally boiled in soups or sauces. For instance, lemon grass clump, chicken broth, coconut milk, garlic and a bit of fish sauce makes a great soup. Wait till you have at least three clumps.

Cut off a clump almost to ground level and lay on the BBQ grill under fish or poultry. I usually separate the clump vertically into ¼- ½ inch diameter lengths and grill them for about a minute before putting down the fish.

Separate the pot contents into clumps, and plant each clump in a new pot.

From: Christopher Loffredo <cloffred.umabnet.ab.umd.edu>
Either start by trimming off some of the older blades every few weeks, leaving some young shoots on the plant, then (1) roll up each blade into a tight curl or tie it into a bow and freeze it at once inside a plastic bag, or (2) dry the leaves, chop them up, and store in jars.

If you use the freezer method all you have to do is thaw the lemon grass and it's ready to use. Dried lemon grass needs to be softened up if you're going to cook with it, so place some in a small bowl with a few tablespoons of hot water and let it soak for a while before cooking.

2.19.3 Using / preserving lemon grass

From: ehunt.bga.com (Eric Hunt)
This should be a great refresher.

Iced Lemongrass Tea

¼ c Chopped fresh lemongrass-tops or
2 tbs. Dried flakes
4 c Boiling water
Sugar to taste

Preheat teapot with boiling water; discard water. Add lemongrass and boiling water, steep 8 to 10 minutes; strain. Allow to cool, sweeten to taste, and serve in tall glasses with ice. Yield: 4 servings

From: albersa.aztec.asu.edu (ANN ALBERS)

Lemon Grass Crockpot Chicken & Thai soup from the leftover stock

1 whole chicken
8 young lemongrass stalks, 4-6" long (use the tender white parts from the base of young shoots. These are tastiest)
salt and pepper to taste

Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Rub all over with butter and then salt and pepper to taste. Stuff about half the lemongrass stalks in the cavity of the chicken and put it in a crockpot, or Dutch oven. Make slits in the skin and insert the other stalks. Trim if necessary to fit these in. Pour water over the chicken to submerge it about halfway and cook on low 6-8 hrs till tender.
Now, you can eat the chicken and make Thai soup out of the lemon grass stock. To make the soup, strain all the stuff out of the stock. Add a can of coconut milk, several shakes of red pepper flakes, bits of leftover chicken that you've shredded and then salt and pepper to taste. Heat thoroughly & in the last five minutes of cooking time add some sliced mushrooms, & green onions. Yum.

Other ideas:

Make lemongrass tea. I never measure, just pour boiling water over the leaves or stems and steep till it's well-colored. Add honey to taste.

Use the tender young shoots, chopped in stir fry dishes to add flavor. It's good with stir fried chicken, water chestnuts, sliced carrots and broccoli. I usually stir fry the lemongrass shoots first (about an hour ahead of time) in a little oil then mix with teriyaki or soy sauce, some ginger, and cornstarch to thicken. Then, after stir-frying the rest of the stuff, dump the sauce over all and allow it to thicken. Serve with rice.

From: Sam Waring <waring.ima.infomail.com>

Nasi Kuneng (Yellow rice)

1 lemon grass stalk or lemon zest
2 ½ c rice
1 ½ c coconut milk
3 c water
2 ½ tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. salt
1 sl galangal, dry
1 bay leaf
1 krapau leaf

Once reserved for religious ceremonies, nasi kuneng is still served on special occasions in Indonesia. This sweet and aromatic centerpiece of a dish is perfect with satay.

Cut lemon grass into pieces about 3" long and tie into a bundle. In a 3-quart pan combine lemon grass, rice, coconut milk, water, turmeric, salt, galangal, bay leaf, and citrus leaf. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, stirring gently every now and then, just until liquid is absorbed. To finish cooking, steam according to one of the methods listed below.

To steam in cooking pan: cover pan, reduce heat to low, and cook until rice is tender (15-20 minutes). Halfway thru estimated cooking time, gently fluff rice with 2 forks. Remove and discard seasonings. Transfer to a serving bowl or mound rice on a platter into a rounded cone.

To steam using traditional method: transfer rice and seasonings to a colander or steamer basket insert. Into a large kettle, pour water to a depth or 1 ½ inches: bring to boil over high heat. Place colander in kettle. Cover and reduce heat, steam until rice is tender (about 20 minutes). Remove and discard seasonings. Serve as noted above.

-- per Larry Haftl

From arielle.Starbase.NeoSoft.COM (Stephanie da Silva):

Lemongrass Drink

A handful of fresh lemongrass leaves, preferable the soft grassy tops,
or the top half of 12 fresh green stalks
3 cups cold water
¼ cup sugar syrup

Cut the leaves or tops into 2-inch lengths, measure out 1 ½ cups, loosely packed. In a blender, combine the tops, water and syrup and blend at high speed until the water is a vivid green and the lemongrass
leaves are reduced to fine, short, needlelike pieces, about 1 minute. Strain through a very fine sieve into a large pitcher, spoon off and discard green foam. Taste to see if it's sweet enough, and add more syrup if you like. Serve in tall glasses over ice.

Sugar syrup:
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Combine sugar and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook until liquid has thickened and colored slightly, about 5 minutes. Cool.

2.19.4 Which lemon grass do you have?

From herblady.newsguy.com (Rastapoodle):
Often Cymbopogon citratus, the variety grown for flavoring savory dishes, is attributed to Brazil, but others dispute that, and say 'origin unknown.' This species grows about 3-5' tall, with graceful, arching leaves. Can be used in the ornamental garden as a pretty plant.

C. flexuous is know to be native to India, and is much sweeter than C. citratus. It is used more for flavoring soft drinks, making syrup, candies, etc. It grows up to 8' tall, and is rather rangy, or ratty looking in its growth habit. Doesn't look very good in the ornamental garden.

C. martini smells like a cross between lemon and rose, and is mostly used in perfumery. I haven't grown it, so I don't know its growth habit. It is on my wish list :-)

>>A friend told me he was buying small lemon grass plants to put in his garden to help keep away bugs.
>>Has anyone ever heard of lemon grass as a bug (I assume he meant, gnats, etc.) deterrent?
>Perhaps there is a connection to citronella?

From herblady.newsguy.com (Rastapoodle):
Boy, are we confused here folks, but it is a common mistake. Here's the story: Lemongrass, a delightful plant, and it's close cousin, Citronella have many wonderful properties, releasing their scent into the air not being one of them.

Very interestingly, a Dutch plant scientist did some genetic engineering and spliced the oil gene of the Citronella into a Pelargonium (scented geranium) plant. The resultant plant looks like a scented geranium, but gives off the fragrance of Citronella (and rose, the original scent of the geranium) to the air with just a breeze or a kiss from the sun.

The hybrid is called Citrosa, and it is patented (you can't make cuttings for sale). A fully grown Citrosa (about 4 x 4 feet here in Miami) is supposed to protect a 100 sq. ft area from mosquitoes.

An update to this from herblady.newsguy.com (Rastapoodle):
It's been four or five years since I wrote about Citrosa, and in that time, I have discovered that the entire story of "Dutch scientist does gene splicing, etc.", was a con game. It is now believed that no such genetics were at work, just lemon/rose geraniums sold with fake labels.

Lemongrass is wonderful to eat, Citronella is *not*. They look similar, so be careful what you buy. Citronella is distilled to extract its oil, which is used in insect repellent candles, burning coils, etc.


>I would like to know if it is worth while to grow citronella plants with the idea that I can make citronella candles. I don't believe I have seen these plants in any of my order catalogs and none of my gardening books tell how you get the citronella out of the plants.

From: adgrant.water.waterw.com (Andrew Grant):
Commercially the oil is extracted by steam distillation using old extracted plants as fuel. I doubt that you want to get that elaborate. I have never tried it but I suspect that the plants could be chopped up and extracted with a solvent like alcohol or toluene. Of course you would then have to boil off the solvent. If you do contemplate this, know that the % oil in the plant is low (I have forgotten the number) so your yield will be low.

Incidentally the notion that citronella discourages mosquitoes is not well supported by my experience. I have seen mosquito larvae in rain water on top of drums of citronella oil with oil droplets in the water!!!