What’s grabbing my attention in the garden in March is lemongrass. Once again, it needs a haircut. It’s about four feet tall and just as wide. It’s looking like a long-haired hippy freak and needs a trim. I’ll take my loppers and cut it back to about 18 inches, something I do usually twice a year. I’ll wear my gloves, of course. I know it’s related to the barbed wire grass and probably the sawgrass, and it’ll cut you up if you don’t protect yourself.
I knew lemongrass was a culinary plant because I’ve seen it as an ingredient in recipes, mostly in Asian dishes. That makes sense since lemongrass is native to Southeast Asia. A quick google search shows it’s used in soups, curries, stir fries, marinades, salads, and teas. Wearing your gloves, cut off a few stalks at ground level, then use just 4 or 5 inches from the bottom of each stalk; peel off the outer layers to get to the tender layers inside which is the part used for cooking. These stalks can be kept in the freezer in a baggie for several months.
Lemongrass may have medical benefits and is rich in vitamin A. For more information on herbal medicines, refer to a reliable information source for details on the benefits or hazards such as the National Institutes of Health’s herbal medicine Web site at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/herbalmedicine.html
In beekeeping, lemongrass oil is used to imitate a pheromone to attract bees to the hive or swarm. Lemongrass is also related to citronella, so it may help repel mosquitos.
Being native to Southeast Asia, lemongrass loves a warm sunny climate, zone 8 or higher. For your convenience, plant it near other herbs and vegetables which enjoy the same growing conditions and cooking pot, such as cilantro, basil, thyme, mint, tomatoes, and peppers. If your lemongrass gets too tall and starts blocking out the sun from its neighbors in the garden, just give it a haircut.
Lemongrass – Gardening Solutions – University of Florida, IFAS
Written by Rhona Scoville, UF/IFAS Extension Clay County Master Gardener Volunteer