Lemongrass, sweet basil, spicy basil and other herbs were growing wild all years round in Northeastern Thailand where I grew up . My grand-father planted mango trees, papaya trees, tamarind tree, giant bamboo tree and other countless trees everywhere. I remembered running out to collect ripped mangoes that had been knocked down by the wind just before the heavy rain. Other kids in the neighborhood also joined in with big buckets in their hands. Nobody cared who took them, they were plenty for everyone. One of my roles as a young child was to help picking and finding whatever herbs my mother told me to pick before she did her cooking. Lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves to make curry paste or spicy basil for stir-fry spicy chicken. I would ran off to the wood behind the house and came back handful with herbs for my mom. Sometimes, she complained that I was little too rough with those herbs because I bruised them. But most of the time, she was pleased. Those were good memories and I had no idea that I would miss such things as picking herbs. One of my vivid memories of lemongrass was that I used to bathe outdoor from a huge clay water container which stood next to lemongrass bush. The bush was there sucking in all the soapy water running off my body. It survived the alkaline water!
In cold climate areas such as Northern USA, lemongrass can be grown outdoor in Spring with the rest of herbs and plants in the garden or as decorative plant itself. I usually plant my lemongrass outside in the garden with my vegetables. These day, you can pretty much buy lemongrass from most of the nurseries. They usually sell in a small pot with one lemon stalk per pot. You’ll only need one plant or two to get started. You’ll be amazed how many stalks they will reproduce by the end of the Summer. Lemongrass prefers well drained soil and good sun light. Give it some water when ever you water your garden. If you plant it indoor,you could get by with watering it every 3-4 days. Lemongrass is an easy plant to plant, after all they don’t call it “grass” for nothing. It doesn’t require much care and it is disease resistance as well. Plant Lemongrass in Spring after frost and by mid Summer, you’ll have lemongrass ready for cooking.
I keep my lemongrass in the freezer and use it all year round. I do this by harvesting lemongrass at the end of each Fall. I would dig out the whole plant which by this time, I should have a whole big bunch of healthy looking lemongrass stalks. I would then leave about five stalks with roots attached, chop of the leaves and plant them in a pot indoor. This would be used as my starter for up coming Spring. I then would clean up the rest of the stalks by cutting off the roots, trimming off all the leaves and peeling a layer or two of the stalks leaving nice and clean white and light green part. I prefer slicing them in little pieces and pack them in zip lock bag. I use lemongrass for soup,curry and stir fry. If you like lemongrass tea, you can also save those leaves that you trim off from the stalks. Chop them up in little pieces and let them air dry. Store it in a ziplock bag or a jar and use it for making lemon grass tea which is a very good relaxant, by the way.
Now, the Spring is not too far away. My Lemongrass plants are sitting in the pot waiting to be replant again. Look like I will have many lemongrass bushes to harvest next fall.
Ratcha Chambers is a stay-at-home-mother of twin girls. Visit her knitting website at; www.to-knit-knitting-stitches.com
and her blog at: Asia Mom Blog