Lemon Grass

by Green Deane

in Beverage, Edible Raw, Plants, Roots/Tubers/Corms

Knotted lemon grass with stem to make tea

Cymbopogon citratus: A Real Lemon

Technically Lemon Grass is naturalized in only one county in Florida, but you can find it in many yards and landscaping, and in several warm states and northern flower pots.

Lemon Grass

I’ve grown two lemon grasses. One I got from a Chinese grocery that had some roots on it — locally grown —  and one from a fru-fru farmers’ market in Winter Park. I called one Chinese and the other was supposedly from India. After watching them for about ten years I think they are the same species, and they have spread easily in my yard. In fact, if I don’t mow — and I hate to mow — the lemon grass will quickly sprout from underground roots, though it also seeds. The only place I take it out is where it threatens to overshadow my sassafras sapling.

Lemon grass, Cymbopogon citratus, has two culinary claims to fame. Its leaves are used to make a tea or flavor soups and the like. Yes, it tastes lemony.  Its lower stalks can be chopped and also used as flavoring, or ground up for some pastes.

Roots are used for flavoring

Cymbopogon means “boat beard” referring to its boat-shaped bracts. Citratus means lemony.  In 2006 researchers found that lemon grass causes cancer cells to kill themselves, at least in the test tube. Lemon Grass did not affect healthy cells. The amount used was one gram of lemon grass in a cup of hot water. I use a heck of a lot more than that when I make lemon grass tea so I should be super safe.  In fact, here’s how I make Lemon Grass tea.

I take a full blade (be careful, the edges can cut you.) I start at the bottom and begin tying the blade in knots. I keep tying until I have a big knot and enough left over for a dipping handle. Then I put it in hot water. It floats but that’s no problem. You can also use the handle to stir it with. Let it seep for a minute or two.

I have been told all native grass seed in North America is edible, and while I suspect that is true I do not know so totally for a fact. There are also imported grasses, among them Lemon Grass. I don’t know know if the seeds of that family (also called Andropogon) are edible but I doubt it.

Green Deane’s “Itemized” Plant Profile

IDENTIFICATION: Lemongrass is a clumping evergreen with narrow blades ranging blue-green to gold, edges are sharp, tiny flowers on stalk are white, cream, or green. Can grow from two to five feet high. Crushed blade has distinct aroma of lemons.

TIME OF YEAR: Year round in warm climates

ENVIRONMENT: Pprefers moist soil and full sun. Propagated by dividing the root clump. Search the bucket of lemon grass at your local Asian market for lemon grass with some roots. Take home and plant.

METHOD OF PREPARATION: Blades (leaves) soaked to make tea or flavor soups. Roots chopped up in stir fry for flavor or made into a paste. Lemongrass leaves can be dried or frozen. Dried leaves need rehydration before use.


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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jenny M. March 4, 2017 at 15:21

I’ve read that people in Asia use lemon grass to ward off Godzilla-sized mosquitoes, they take the stalks and rub them all over themselves and it’s supposed to keep them away (I read they’re pretty vicious). I imagine if you brewed a strong tea it may also help to spritz it on yourself.


Jacque May 29, 2014 at 23:33

I had my first cup of lemon grass tea from a plant I recently found and planted in my garden in Mexico. It is absolutely wonderful.

I can see I am going to be that plant hair cuts all the time.


Marilyn October 21, 2013 at 21:53

Love lemon grass tea (I knew is as “fever” grass when I was a kid). Add a lemon or lime leaf and it takes on a slightly different flavor which is also good.


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