Lemongrass

Ahh, the smell of my lemongrass…. Sometimes I think I just grow this herb so I can smell it. 

Lemongrass is a tall perennial grass that has 50+ species. It grows in the warm & temperate tropics.  In the U.S. it is said to be only hardy in Zone 9 (my zone) but can be taken inside in northern zones.  Last year I left it exposed outdoors the entire winter (except for a week when it was below freezing for five nights straight, very rare for FL)! 

Lemongrass is the easiest of my herbs. It grows wild in my humid backyard & never needs any attention, just sun & water. If you are growing it in a drier region then you just may need to water more often. Lemongrass likes moist soil that drains well.  It can grow up to 9 ft in its native environment to be such to give this grassy herb some growing room. If you need to fertilize your lemongrass then you should treat it as a grass & give it an organic fertilizer high in nitrogen in the spring or summer. Do not fertilize lemongrass in the winter when it is dormant. When our colder than normal FL winter was over we just cut off the dead grass & it grew back in the spring! 

Many people associate Lemongrass with Asian cuisines especially dishes from Thailand & Vietnam. I have used it for such dishes but enjoy it in other ways. Here are my favorites:

  • Grill, bake or broil lemongrass with your fish. Just place it on the top of the fish when cooking.
  • Stuff chicken with lemongrass, garlic, salt & pepper. Let marinate & then roast.
  • Boil some in water & make fresh lemongrass tea.

There are dozens of other ways to use this flavorful herb. I’ve seen delicious recipes for adding lemongrass to your fried rice or to your soups. I even have one for making a lemongrass marinade.  Aside from cooking, it can also be used for other purposes. In India, they use lemongrass as an element in perfumes. Most people may be familiar with citronella but did you know that’s actually another popular name for lemongrass?

Lemongrass also has good effects to the body. It can help significantly in detoxifying the organs in the digestive system like the pancreas, kidney, bladder & liver.  I can write some of this from experience because I truly believe that lemongrass tea (& aloe vera juice-but that’s another post) helped with a pancreatic problem of my own.  This is made possible because the lemongrass aids in cutting down uric acid & toxins in your system.

Making Lemongrass Tea Basics

  • Use gloves to protect your hands & pull a clump of lemongrass away from the parent plant. I get lemongrass splinters whenever I don’t wear gloves. I like to harvest shoots that are 12 inches or more. Sever the plant at the stalk with a knife to help you remove it if you need to. I can normally just pull away with a twist to free my lemongrass.
  • You can peel off the outer green leaves or use them. There is debate, some say the green leaves make your tea bitter, some say it offers more flavor.
  • Cut the lemongrass plant into slices.
  • Pour boiling hot water over the plant and let it sit for five minutes. It is said that a tablespoon of lemongrass is equal to a cup of tea.
  • Use a strainer to strain the tea.
  • Sweeten your tea and add milk if desired.

I also use all of my fresh lemongrass when making tea. Whatever tea is leftover is turned into sweet iced lemongrass tea, by adding mint & honey & then refrigerating.

Minted Lemon Iced Tea

For Mother’s Day I received a cookbook this year! After trying two yummy recipes this week, I wanted to share one of them!  I was drawn to this recipe because I have an abundance of mint in my garden this season!  This tea used just the perfect amount of fresh mint & had a really fresh taste!

 

This is how the recipe reads in the Spring recipe section of my new Southern Living farmers market cookbook!  The book promotes the farmers market experience in the south (Texas to Virginia & everything in between).  I love how the recipes are divided into seasons & the book even features a section on locating farmers markets, food festivals & other local organizations & websites!  (Our Flagler Beach market was listed)!  I noted changes I made to the recipes at the bottom of the post. Enjoy!

Minted Lemon Iced Tea

prep 5 min + other 2 hr 5 min

2 qt boiling water

10 lemon zinger tea bags

1 to 1 1/2 cups sugar (optional)

1 cup fresh mint leaves

Simple Syrup

1. Pour boiling water over tea bags. Stir in sugar, if desired, and mint; steep 5 minutes. Remove tea bags and mint leaves. Chill for 2 hours. Stir in Simple Syrup, if desired. Yield: 2 qt.

Simple Syrup

prep 2 min +  cook 5 min

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

1. Bring water & sugar to a boil over medium-high heat in a saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves, boil 1 minute. Remove from heat; cool. Cover & chill until ready to serve. Stir desired amount into tea. Yield: 3/4 cup (enough for 12 drinks)

I omitted the simple syrup & added only one cup of sugar.  It was still pretty sweet. I also left the mint leaves on the stems & estimated what a full cup of mint would look like. It made retrieving the mint from the brewing tea super easy!  We really enjoyed this spring tea! Hope you do too!