Wednesday, 15 April 2009
LEMON GRASS or Cymbopogon is a genus of about 55 species of grasses, native to warm temperate and tropical regions of the Old World and Oceania. It is a tall perennial grass. Common names include lemongrass, barbed wire grass, silky heads, citronella grass, fever grass or Hierba Luisa amongst many others.Not all varieties are edible.
The LEMON GRASS that is suitable for cooking is the ‘Cymbopogon citratus’ and is native to Malaysia. It has a citrus flavour and can be dried and powdered, or used fresh. The lower portion is sliced, pounded or bruised (to release its flavour and essential oils) and used in cooking. As a spice, fresh LEMON GRASS is preferred for its vibrant flavour. The dried spice is available in several forms: chopped in slices, cut and sifted, powdered, or as oil.
LEMON GRASS is commonly used in teas, soups, and curries. It is also suitable for poultry, fish, and seafood. It is often used as a tea in African and Latino-American countries.
If using fresh LEMON GRASS, use only the lower bulbous portion of the stem. It can be pounded and used whole or cut in slices. When using the ground powder (sereh) use one teaspoon as an equal to one stalk of fresh. It is advisable to soak dried sliced lemon grass for two hours before using.
When wrapped in a paper bag, LEMON GRASS stems can last 2 to 3 weeks in the refrigerator. The stems can also be frozen for several months. Always wrap and store separately, as LEMON GRASS will impart its flavour to other foods.
Citronella Grass (Cymbopogon nardus and Cymbopogon winterianus) is similar to the species above but grows to 2 m and has red base stems. These species are used for the production of citronella oil, which is used in soaps, as a mosquito repellent in insect sprays and candles, and also in aromatherapy, which is famous in Bintan, Indonesia. The principal chemical constituents of citronella, geraniol and citronellol, are antiseptics, hence their use in household disinfectants and soaps. Besides oil production, citronella grass is also used for culinary purposes, in tea and as a flavoring. The essential oil is used in perfumery too.
LEMON GRASS Oil is said to be an excellent pesticide and the Oriental Research Institute in Mysore, India apply it on ancient manuscripts to preserve them. The oil also keeps the manuscripts dry from humidity hence delaying the decay process of humidity. Research also shows that LEMON GRASS oil has antifungal properties.
LEMON GRASS also has medicinal properties and is used extensively in ancient Indian Ayurvedic medicines. It is supposed to help with relieving cough and nasal congestion.
The GRASS is considered a diuretic, tonic and stimulant. It promotes good digestion, and a preparation of LEMON GRASS with pepper has been used for relief of menstrual troubles and nausea. It induces perspiration, to cool the body and reduce a fever.
Camel’s Hay, Citronella, Geranium Grass, Cochin Grass, Sereh (powder)
French: herbe de citron
Italian: erba di limone
Spanish: hierba de limon
Indian: bhustrina, sera
Indonesian: sere, sereh
Lao: bai mak nao
Source: Wikipedia and The Epicentre
PS: I have grown LEMON GRASS in Canberra. You can buy the plant from Bunnings from mid November to February. For a better yield, I’d recommend planting it in the ground and protecting it from the cold from mid April to mid October, preferably in a hot house.
Give it a feed of potassium nitrate in summer to 'fatten' up the stalks. Make sure you do not pour the potassium directly on the roots but about 6 inches away from the roots.