Lemon grass is a fibrous, stalky, grass-like plant that has a distinctly lemony aroma. It grows both wild and cultivated in Southeast Asia and is starting to be grown in the USA. Lemon grass is widely used in Southeast Asian food, is an ingredient in most Thai curry pastes, is indispensable in tom yum (Thai hot and sour soup), and makes a pretty nice tea as well.

Lemon grass is available both fresh and dried. When you buy fresh lemon grass, you should look for stalks with the widest base, and only use the bottom few inches in your food. Slice it up thinly, crosswise. The only way to make it edible is by pulverizing it -- no amount of cooking will ever make it actually tender, so don't try.


ToasterLeavings says he's got lemon grass growing wild in his yard in Australia.
Plant Description: Cymbopogon Citratus, commonly known as Lemon Grass, is widely known and loved for its distinctive and aroma-therapeutic lemon scent. Native to Sri Lanka and Southern India, lemon grass grows outdoors and is harvested in practically every tropical region, including the Amazon, South Pacific, and Caribbean, as well as in some northern regions. In these temperate climates, lemon grass is known to grow to six feet, while in northern regions, it grows to about 3 feet. The perennial grass grows in bulbous clumps, and its leaves begin wide towards the base of the plant and taper in girth upwards. The blades of the grass are primarily green, yet have yellow spots of varying size on both sides. The grass is quite durable, well-known for being un-chewable and indigestible. Upon crushing and breaking the blade, one can smell its sharp lemony aroma. This plant is from the same family as the perhaps more well-known plant citronella. Uses: Throughout the world, Lemon Grass is utilized in numerous manners.
  • Cooking: Lemon grass is widely used in Thai, Vietnamese, and other Asian cuisine. It is also used much in the Caribbean, and is becoming more popular in the U.S. This pungent grass is mainly used in small amounts, and the entire stalk can be used. The bulb is often bruised and minced for some recipes. It is a very tough plant and is hard to chew, so it must be pulverized or used as a garnish or flavor enhancer.
  • Commercial: The essential oil in lemon grass is used commercially as a fragrance for soaps, air fresheners, and other perfumes.
Active Constituents: The essential oil (monoterpene) in lemon grass is mainly comprised of citral, the active ingredient in the lemon peel. Further terpenoids in lemon grass oil are nerol, limonene, linalool and beta-caryphyllene. The content of myrcene is low, but still enough to make the oil susceptible to oxidative polymerization.* Sources:
D.C. Smith Greenhouse, UW-Madison
* www-ang.kfunigraz.ac.at/~katzer/engl/generic_frame.html?Cymb_cit.html
www.bbg.org/gar2/topics/kitchen/1999sp_lemongrass.html
www.sallys-place.com/food/columns/gilbert/lemon_grass.htm

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