Saturday, May 23, 2015

How to Grow and Use Lemongrass

A new and small lemongrass plant in the back corner
As a gardener with a limited area of prime, sunny gardening space, I'm always looking for open places to add edible plants and herbs.  I have done things like force compatible vegetables to share space by tucking basil in with large planters of tomatoes, have used neglected window boxes to grow tidy rows of chard, and have added beautiful red-veined sorrel to empty spots in my perennial beds in front of my house.

This year, I wanted to claim some space in the big ornamental container by my front door for growing edibles. As someone who is not terribly creative with ornamental container plantings, I tend the stick with the "thriller, filler, spiller" rule of thumb and thought what better “thriller” than the tall statuesque lemongrass.

Lemongrass is a citrusy-flavored herb that gives Thai food its distinctive taste.  It is relatively carefree in a sunny garden in a tropical zone.  In colder zones like mine, lemongrass can be grown in containers and taken in during the winter months, or simply planted outside in the garden and grown as an annual.  Plants can be started by seed (for a far slower start), but it is easy enough to take cuttings from a friend or find fresh green lemongrass stalks from an Asian grocer and root in a glass of water.  Change the water every other day and roots should appear within two weeks.  When roots are a couple inches long, the lemongrass stalks can be planted in a container or into the garden.  In the garden, lemongrass can grow to at least three feet tall and wide.  The lemongrass in my planter has already gotten noticeably larger in the past couple of weeks, but being situated in partial shade, and being confined to a container, it won’t get too big.  Still, I won't be stingy with using the stalks when I need to. And at the end of the season, I will cut all remaining stalks and dry for use throughout the winter.

To use lemongrass, harvest as needed by cutting larger outside stalks at soil level.  The part used in cooking is the light green or yellowish section near the bottom half of the stalk. You can crush the stalk in this section and notice the fresh citrus scent. Tough or bruised outside leaves with no fragrance should be removed before cooking.  There are numerous cooking methods to use depending on the dish.  To flavor soups, cut into 5 inch lengths and twist the entire length of the section or crush with a mallet or rolling pin before adding to the pot.  To add to stir-fries, grate lemongrass or crush and then mince.  For curries, use tender lemongrass sections and cut very thinly.

I love the fragrance of lemongrass and find it very energizing and mood-boosting.  It is also a critical ingredient in making a great Thai tom yum soup like THIS one.  Enjoy!


  1. I grow Lemongrass. I like the way it looks. My pets, dog and cat, like to chew the leaves. It dies to the ground here and may or may not return from roots, so I pot up some to keep under glass through the winter.

  2. Lemongrass is very famous in here too! I use them in the cooking!


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