Lemon Grass

History: West Indian lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus) is native to South Asia and maritime Southeast Asia and is known as serai in Malaysia and Brunei, serai or sereh in Indonesia and tanglad or salai in the Philippines.

Cultivation: Since it is a tropical plant and a member of the grass, you can grow it indoors. It’s a perennial and cats love to chew on the leaves. Lemon grass is propagated by division. The most edible part is near the bottom of the stalk; this is where you’ll want to snap or cut off your
lemongrass. Begin with older stalks first and look for those that are anywhere between ¼- to ½-inch thick. Then either snap it off as close to the roots as possible or cut the stalk at ground level. You can also twist and pull the stalk. Don’t worry if you wind up with some of the bulb or roots.

Uses and Benefits: This grass is rich in a substance called citral, the active ingredient in lemon peel. This substance is said to aid in digestion as well as relieve spasms, muscle cramps, rheumatism and headaches. Lemongrass is also used commercially as the lemon scent in many products including soaps, perfumes and candles. Lemongrass might help prevent the growth of some bacteria and yeast. Lemongrass also contains substances that
are thought to relieve pain, reduce fever, stimulate the uterus and menstrual flow, and have antioxidant properties. T

he health benefits of Lemongrass Essential Oil can be attributed to its many beneficial properties as an analgesic, antidepressant, antimicrobial, antipyretic, antiseptic, astringent, bactericidal, carminative, deodorant, diuretic, febrifuge, fungicidal, galactogogue, insecticidal, nervine, sedative and tonic substance. Research shows that lemongrass oil has antifungal properties. Despite its ability to repel some insects, such as mosquitoes, its oil is commonly used as a “lure” to attract honey bees. Lemongrass is widely used as a culinary herb in Asian cuisine and also as medicinal herb in India.

This is a very pungent herb and is normally used in small amounts. The entire stalk of the grass can be used. The grass blade can be sliced very fine and added to soups. The bulb can be bruised and minced for use in a variety of recipes. It has a subtle citrus flavor and can be dried and powdered, or used fresh. The light lemon flavor of this grass blends well with garlic, chilies, and cilantro. The herb is frequently used in curries as well as in seafood soups. It is commonly used in teas, soups, and curries. It is also suitable for use with poultry, fish, beef, and seafood. In food and beverages, lemongrass is used as a flavoring. For example, lemongrass leaves are commonly used as “lemon” flavoring in herbal teas.

— Margaret Dentlinger