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Spices Unearthed: Lemongrass

Learn about lemongrass on SeasonWithSpice.com

If you found out that you had a weed nicknamed 'Fever Grass' growing in your garden, chances are you’d pull it out, toss it and forget it.

But if you found out that you had a spice called Lemongrass – which adds a warm lemon flavor to your meals and drinks, while at the same time clearing toxins from your body and relieving your headache, stress, and many other ailments – chances are good you’d water it.

Call it a weed, but this fever-reducing, sweet, lemony, grassy herb might just be the first weed you plant instead of pull.

Learn how to cook with lemongrass on SeasonWithSpice.com

Lemongrass is a perennial plant native to tropical Asia, but now commonly grown around the world.  Growing in clumps like a weed, each individual stalk of grass consists of a tough, bulbous base growing a few inches into the ground, and shooting up into a blade of dense grass about 1-2 meters long.

The lower portion of the lemongrass plant – the thick stalk and round edible base - is what ends up on the chopping board, and into so many Southeast Asian dishes.  To prepare, it is as simple as removing the top blade, peeling off the outer green or dried layers on the stalk, and slicing off the tip of the bulb end.  The remaining whitish bulb and stalk can be bruised to release the fragrant oils and then tossed in soups like the famous Thai Tom Yum Goong.  Or you can just use the sweeter, less fibrous bulb by chopping it finely and adding to chicken and seafood stir-fries, or combining it with other spices & herbs and pounded into a Malaysian, Indonesian, or Thai curry paste.

Like kaffir lime leaves and other Southeast Asian spices, lemongrass has no substitute.  It has a distinctly warm, lemon aroma, but not the sour taste of the fruit.  The citrus flavor of lemongrass instead is slightly sweet, and has the familiar, but milder, bite of ginger.  The spice complements and balances sharper flavors, which is why it is frequently combined with chili pepper, garlic, galangal, and turmeric.

Spices and herbs commonly used in Thai and Malaysian cooking

The soothing fragrance of lemongrass is from its essential oils, notably Citral Oil – an oil also found in lemon peel.  The essential oils not only provide the wonderful aroma and taste of lemongrass, but also its innumerable health benefits, such as potentially reducing anxiety and high blood pressure, alleviating muscle aches and menstrual pains, and suppressing coughs and colds.

Try a cup of lemongrass tea after a meal to aid in digestion and detoxify your body.  Or a cup before bed in order to relax and have a good night’s rest.

Ginger Lemongrass Tea recipe on SeasonWithSpice.com

Lemongrass may be better known outside the kitchen.  There are over 50 different species of lemongrass, which includes Cymbopogon citratus (the common herb used in cooking), as well as Cymbopogon nardus and winterianus (the two main sources of Citronella Oil).  All lemongrass species have essential oils, which are extracted and used in various products such as mosquito repellents, cosmetics, aromatherapy oils, perfumes, soaps, lotions, and so on.

You can even mix a few drops of lemongrass oil into a mild shampoo to treat greasy hair, or with a facial wash to treat acne.

Lemongrass has endless uses, so it’s best to start at the beginning – in the kitchen.   Here are a few recipes to get you started:
coconut chicken lettuce wrap recipe
grilled shrimp lemon grass skewers recipe
Grilled Shrimp Lemongrass Skewers - Season with Spice
thai spicy chicken wonton soup recipe
Chicken Wonton Soup - Playful Cooking
Lemongrass asparagus and shrimp pasta recipe on SeasonWithSpice.com
Vietnamese chicken with turmeric and lemongrass recipe on SeasonWithSpice.com
Vietnamese Chicken with Lemongrass - Food Affair Vietnam
Asian rice noodle salad with spicy lemongrass dressing by SeasonWithSpice.com
Spicy Lemongrass Noodle Salad - SeasonWithSpice
Mojito recipe with mint and lemongrass by SeasonWithSpice.com
Lemongrass Mojito - Season with Spice
Thai peanut sauce recipe by SeasonWithSpice.com
Easy Thai Peanut Sauce - Season with Spice

11 comments:

Victoria at Flavors of the Sun said...

Great post. Informative and interesting with the added bonus of a great recipe and appealing recipe links.

Kankana said...

i love lemon grass and the flavor is just so refreshing! Never tried lemon grass tea but the ginger lemon grass .. yummy.
btw thanks for mentioning the wanton soup. It's our fav soup :)

Nami | Just One Cookbook said...

Although Japanese dish doesn't use lemongrass, this is one of my favorite spice! I used to love this lemongrass chicken at this French/Vietnamese restaurant (cooked with curry) and oh my gosh...it's most amazing flavor... I miss every taste of it! All these dishes make my mouth water~~~~!

BiteMyCake said...

I've been longing for lemongrass, but there's still none on Croatian markets.
Lovely post with useful recipes

Season with Spice said...

Thanks Tamara, you definitely should open up a spice shop in Croatia to bring all these flavors into the country

mandys_mom said...

Are all types of lemongrass edible? I have some growing in my yard but don't know if it's an edible variety.

Season with Spice said...

That's a good question. The most common type of lemongrass used in cooking is Cymbopogon citratus (West Indian Lemongrass). This is the type of lemongrass you will probably find at your local Asian grocer. Other edible types include Cymbopogon citriodora, Cymbopogon ambiguus, and Cymbopogon flexuosus (East Indian Lemongrass). The other, non-edible types of lemongrass are usually referred to as "Citronella Grass" since they are used to extract the topical oil.

If you are unsure of the exact species of lemongrass growing in your yard, it is best to not consume it. Since lemongrass is a "weed" and easy to grow, we recommend buying a few fresh stalks of West Indian lemongrass from the grocery store, and growing them yourself. We will actually be posting an article soon on Season with Spice about growing your own lemongrass, so stay tuned...

Vicky said...

hmm I absolutely looove lemongrass. Will have to try some of the recipes posted here.

Season with Spice said...

Hi Nami, it's an easy spice to incorporate into any cuisine. Would love to see it mixed into some Japanese recipes on Just One Cookbook!

mjskit said...

What a great post! I love lemongrass but have only cooked with it a couple of times, unsuccessfully I might add. I am now aware of my errors. :) So thank you for all of the information about lemongrass and then the great recipes that use it. I will be referring to this post quite often! Have a wonderful weekend!

Season with Spice said...

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