EASE with Lemongrass
I notice things. You do too. Maybe you haven't given much thought to Lemongrass, eh? That's surely because your mind and heart have other equally necessary things to consider and dance with.
For decades now I've been keeping Lemongrass close. I tuck 2-3 plants in each year in places where I can really see it due the stunning visual presence. Lemongrass looks so different from all the others in my garden and gives more depth and dimension to the space for me. Then I move in close and rustle the leaves around down to the base and the aroma spirals up and drops me to stillness. The effort is small to have this medicinal + nourishing plant close. It takes a small piece of garden space or a medium sized pot, sunlight, water you drink too, and a seedling easily found in spring with all the veggie and herbs AND only costs a few dollars. Once set up and planted, it's all about enjoying the growing season together before harvest time.
Buying Lemongrass bulbs in the store to cook with is great. Growing is easy and so much more vibrant and aromatic for your dishes. Cooking with it means "discarding the outer leaves and only keeping the tender inner core for dishes". I suggest putting all the discarded parts into a mason jar or tea pot with just boiled water, let it steep 20 minutes, and enjoy it as a tea while you enjoy your cooking. It's delicious! And it's a beautiful medicinal too with a broad range of benefits.
We'll drop into some of the medicinal applications here for why it's great to invest a few dollars and a bit of waiting in order to harvest and have hundreds of dollars worth a few plants at your finger tips for cooking AND medicine. Have you noticed the price of one stalk?
One Lemongrass plant provide many bulbs and mid stems that I freeze.
Being A Tropical Plant Means Death in NY
So I watch for the magenta colored stems at the base of the plant that come with the cooling nights of late August to September. I uproot the whole plant giving a fully honored good death that ensures I get all of the bulbous ends that are prized for cooking. If it winters over near you then you slice at ground level with a good sharp blade and you get regeneration stalks. Lucky you!
With this massive clump of Lemongrass uprooted I then tease the stalks apart and begin the gleaning process. Shade or sun, with music, silence or singing, having lemonade or a beer is all up to each as you do the good work. I then separate into 4 working piles:
1. the long leaf blades for making 'tea rings' - dry for tea/infusions
2. the sturdy bulbs with about 10 inches of stalk - freeze for cooking and medicine
3. the mid ribs left about six inches long - freeze for stocks and tea/infusions
4. the loose leaf blades that don't fit in the other piles cut to a workable size for drying for more tea
Why do I freeze it?
Drying the two parts that I choose to freeze would be far more work with an increased chance of spoilage and loss of aromatic and medicinal potency. Have I done it? Yes. Will I again slice each down to drying slivers about 4 inches long? Yes. For now I choose freezing which keeps it fresh with strong aromatic oils that cook easy into food or mashed to a quick pastes or for making a Lemongrass Syrup. YES! (Add fresh ginger root to that too!) It makes an amazing addition to a martini. In fact I don't drink martinis much, or ever, unless it's a Lemongrass martini. This way gives me the best I can get for living where Lemongrass cannot for part of the year. Starting over again and again each growing season is our dance.
Yield from this one plant is impressive here for the whole tray of bulbs and mid stalks frozen above, plus 1/2 pound of loose leaf for tea AND 50+ woven Lemongrass 'tea rings'. Each tea ring makes a pint to a quart of tea, depending on your desire for how strong, by placing in a mason jar, fill with boiled water and cap, steep 20 minutes and sip. So easy and sooo good!
The making of Lemongrass tea rings.
Medicinal Benefits of Keeping Lemongrass Close
Cymbopogon citratus, Lemongrass, is an herb which belongs to the grass family of Poaceae. It has a distinct lemon flavor and citrusy aroma. This tall perennial grass native to India and tropical regions of Asia is a rough and tufted plant with linear leaves that grow in thick bunches. They emerge from a strong base and stand about 3-6 feet for me. They can get 9 feet tall when in the preferred landscape of the tropics.
Here in the northeastern US I grow this as an annual and it is truly an abundant provider when happy. I briefly list for you here the benefits of keeping this beauty close in my garden and apothecary.
Medicinal Preparations I Take:
I dry for tea/infusions and soup stock making. I freeze for cooking and medicine applications. I work with the essential oil for bathing and ointments or infused oil applications. I do not tincture Lemongrass. I may never though it can lend itself as an aromatic healer to this. The nutritive properties are so important to the medicine of this plant and these nutrient dense qualities do not transfer well through the tincturing process. Now an infused apple cider vinegar or oxymel (add a little honey to the finished vinegar)? This sounds worth trying!
Benefits of Lemongrass - The When & Why I turn to Lemongrass tea and infusions, adding to my food and bone stocks, or working with the essential oil (sparingly).
Lemongrass tea rings drying in my office. LOVE!
Making Fresh Lemongrass Tea Rings
'Apothecary Time w/Jen' video - in the garden making Lemongrass tea rings just prior to digging up this beauty.
You may have other ways you love dancing with Lemongrass. Do share. This is how we've learned our dance together each year. Enjoy and may you invite Lemongrass close. Much Love, Jen
Jennifer Costa, Herbalist, Teacher, BS, RN, CST, and Founder of ElderMoon School of Herbs & Earth Medicine