Lemongrass plant is cultivated in many homes for it's medicinal and mostly, culinary values. Especially in Southeast Asia where lemongrass thrives in warm weather countries, lemongrass can be found growing wildly. It often added to stews, curry and tea for its citrusy fragrance.
|Alternate Names||fever grassseraidtakraitanglad|
|Taste||Citrusy, hint of ginger like spiciness|
|Substitutes||zest of half a (fresh) lemon or lime to get its fragrance|
The lemongrass plant grows well in tropical country and can be found in most home gardens or even growing wildly. Due to the warm weather, lemongrass grows easily. It may be mistaken for grass as it grows tall and looks like wild grass. Not a surprise because lemongrass belongs to the grass family. Besides that, fresh lemongrass is also sold in wet markets or supermarkets. In other parts of the world, lemongrass is sold dried, frozen or even in powder form.
As an ingredient, lemongrass is commonly used in Southeast Asian cuisine. In Malaysia, Burma, Indonesia or even Singapore, lemongrass is often blended into chilli paste to make various curries. Lemongrass is also added to soups or eaten raw as it gives a light hint of citrus smell once chewed on but does not have any acid like a citrus fruit would have. The subtle hint of spiciness from lemongrass adds a very pleasant flavour to the dishes and even drinks such as cocktails. The flavour and aroma of lemongrass are great when paired with ingredients like chillies, shallots, garlic and cilantro. Lemongrass also goes well with sweet drinks or food.
In countries where lemongrass is a native plant, it is also used for its medicinal value. Sometimes eaten raw or further processed into oil, lemongrass has a vast value of benefits. Lemongrass is known to have antibacterial and antifungal agent which is why it works great in treating infections such as skin fungal or yeast infection. Added to that, another study proved the anti-inflammatory effects in lemongrass is effective. Some lab rats were fed with hot water extract of dried lemongrass leaves and clear positive results have been recorded. In a study performed in 2011 proved that lemongrass extract can be used as antioxidant additives or as nutritional supplements. Although the antioxidant activities may not be as effective compared to synthetic supplements, this tropical plant is quite safe as their toxicity is a not a problem of concern, unlike synthetic supplements.
Anti-cancer effects have been recorded in a study on lemongrass oil as it helps in a loss of tumour cell growth. While going through cancer treatment, lemongrass is said to help in reducing some side effects and even enhance the anticancer effects of the treatment.
In traditional medicine, lemongrass is also used to cure a cold, cough and fever. Heinerman's Encyclopedia of Healing Herbs suggests consuming lemongrass water every four hours to cure fever. Other usages of lemongrass in traditional medicine include treatment for nervous and gastrointestinal disorders, nausea and menstruation problems and ailments like headaches, muscle cramps, spasms and rheumatisms. There are also claims on weight loss after drinking lemongrass tea as it has a low amount of calories and carbohydrate. However, there has not been any studies supporting these claims.
Get lemongrass which is firm, tight and not wrinkly. It should also not have any bruises especially at the bottom-most part of the plant. Older lemongrass will have its outer leaf browning and dry.
Lemongrass can be stored in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks in an airtight container, ziplock bag or when wrapped in plastic. Although still edible, the outer layers of lemongrass may begin to brown or dry. Freezing lemongrass for longer storage for up to 6 months is also possible. Slice the bottom-most part of lemongrass and let it air dry on a kitchen towel. It is best to store the sliced lemongrass flat in a plastic for easier usage. Instead of slicing, one can also freeze pureed lemongrass. Note that there may be minor changes to the aroma. To dry lemongrass, separate the layers of the bottom-most part of a lemongrass and allow it to dry under the hot sun or in a dehydrator. Slice or cut it into smaller pieces if desired. Store in a dark place in an airtight container.
Remove the bottom tip of the lemongrass stalk which may be browned or dry. Then, cut off 6-8 cm from the bottom as it is the softest part of the stalk.
Remove the outer leaf which is usually hard to expose the softer leaves. The knife should be able to pierce through the stem.
Depending on the recipe, blend, pound or slice lemongrass. If the intention is to just absorb the aroma of the lemongrass, lightly pound the tip of the lemongrass and add it into your dish or use it as to brush oil on food when grilling.