Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) is a perennial sub-tropical plant. Its genus comprises 59 species distributed across the tropics and subtropics of Asia, Australia, and Africa. Lemongrass is a rapidly growing green and tall plant that needs a warm and humid environment to grow well. Here we will tell you what the lemongrass plant is and everything you need to know about it.
Lemongrass is commonly grown in Latin America, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Thailand, and India. But the plant is also cultivated in the mountain range of the Himalayas, Western Ghats, Arunachal Pradesh, and Sikkim, where nearly 2 million pounds of it are produced per year.
Lemongrass is a dense bush-like plant that grows up to 6 feet tall (about 1,83 meters) and 4 feet wide (about 1,22 meters). The stalks of the plant radiate an aromatic scent like citrus. Its aroma is a subtle blend of lemon, lime, ginger, and grass, which will come out in your cookings. The plant is famous for its culinary and herbal medicinal purposes, one of them being a tea.
|Botanical Name||Cymbopogon Citratus|
|Plant Type||A Perennial|
|Size (Fully Grown)||2 To 5 Feet (About 0,60 To 1,5 Meters) Tall|
|Sun Exposure||Full Sun|
|Soil Type||Well-draining Nutrient-Rich Soil|
|Soil pH||From 6.5 To 7.2|
|U.S. Hardiness Zones||10 And 11|
|Native Area||Sri Lanka And India|
Different Lemongrass Varieties
Lemongrass is a globally grown and used plant. Many cultures have adopted it for cooking purposes and even make beverages with it. With the 59 species, here is a list of the most common varieties.
- Camel Grass
- Java Citronella
- East Indian Lemongrass
- West Indian Lemongrass
- Australian Lemon-scented Grass
What Is The Origin Of Lemongrass?
As we already mentioned above, it is a tropical plant grown in tropical regions, probably why it originates from Southeast Asia.
According to research, the most primitive reference to lemongrass oil came from the Philippines in the 17th century. Around the 18th century, the plant was introduced as a herd in Jamaica. Then in the early 20th century, the plant became a commercial product in Florida, United States.
After the plant’s popularity rose in the United States, the world soon noticed its potential by using it as a cooking ingredient in different cuisines. But let’s not forget that the plant has significant medical use.
How To Recognize A Lemongrass Plant?
Lemongrass is a perennial grass that carries elongated stalks that grow in a dense cluster and take around 3 to 4 feet (about 0,91 to 1,22 meters) of space on the ground. The plant can grow about 6 feet (about 1,83 meters) tall or more in height. This is also what distinguishes it from other plants in the same plant family.
Color And Shape
Lemongrass is green; that doesn’t sound good because many plants are green. Nonetheless, green is a distinct feature where you can recognize it from. Its narrow blade-like stalks are sharp around the edges and clumped together. The color may range from bluish-green to pale yellowish golden, and the limb may carry small white or creamy flowers on its edge.
The plant also resembles a green onion with its round bottom, which is not soft but a woody and rigid stalk. Due to its woody texture, you can store it even up to six months in a refrigerator after purchasing or after you cut it from the plant.
Apart from the woody texture, lemongrass’s minty lime smell is a unique feature that makes it recognizable among other similar plants. Its scent can be felt in its dishes, too, while cooking.
How To Grow Lemongrass?
To grow it successfully, you need to provide it with the same conditions as it gets in Southeast Asia, where the plant originates from. So, remember to offer it a lot of heat, sunlight, and moisture.
Providing your plant with the three “ingredients” we mentioned before will build a foundation for a successful harvest. But that’s not all! They also need a pretty big area to grow, so don’t forget to plant it in a spacious place.
What Temperature Does Lemongrass Tolerate?
Because it is a tropical plant, it grows well in a hot climate. Also, a moist or, in other words, humid environment is preferred. Lastly, the growing temperature should be between 65 to 85°F (18 to 30°C).
As we mentioned, lemongrass is a tropical plant, which means that it won’t be happy if you expose it to frost, for example. So an excellent solution to resolve this issue is to grow it in a pot and bring it indoors when the winter comes.
Lemongrass loves sunlight and is, thus, a full sun plant. To be more specific, around six hours of daylight is an amount that can sustain the average growth of this plant.
Even though it’s possible to grow it in an environment that only gets, let’s say, less than six hours of sunlight, it’s best to place it in full sun because lower than that will hinder the growth.
As we’ve already discussed, lemongrass prefers rich soil that drains well but is still moist. One excellent way to achieve conditions like this is to add loads of compost and other organic matter to the ground.
Lemongrass is entirely different from most decorative grasses because it needs more water. This means that it needs plenty of water that will thus keep its roots moist. You can also water it with manure tea, which will add up trace nutrients.
Because lemongrass is a dense and thick plant, it needs a nitrogen-rich fertilizer to grow well. One way to give it what it needs is to use a 6-4-0 fertilizer to help the plant grow.
But if you already use compost or add other organic matter to the ground, it should be enough to meet lemongrass’s needs.
Different Uses For Lemongrass
Now that you know what the lemongrass plant is, it’s time to discuss the uses it has. Lemongrass is famous for its culinary use in different recipes around the world.
This is also why people harvest it in many countries, especially in South Asian countries. The stalks are full of flavor and edible. They are used because of their lemonish minty taste and are usually removed after use from the dishes.
The stalks of the plant are also used to make different beverages, tea, for example. Fresh lemongrass stalks are brewed and turned into lemongrass tea, juice, and much more.
The smell is unique, giving different flavors of lemon, mint, ginger, and lime. This is also why the plant is used to make perfumes. But thanks to that scent, it’s used to make scented candles as well.
Benefits Of The Lemongrass Plant
It’s not just a tropical plant, but it also carries many benefits. First of all, the plant is famous for its sedative properties, so herbal tea from this plant is recommended for people with sleeping disorders.
The plant is also recommended to boost your metabolism system, reduce bloating, or if you have trouble with digestive issues, you might find lemongrass helpful.
Best of all, people also believe that it has medicinal properties. For example, it can relieve sore throats and is considered to be very beneficial if you have gastric issues.
Lemongrass also contains antioxidants, which are highly beneficial for your health. Apart from sleep issues, researchers also suggest that its smell is very relaxing for your mind.
Is It Safe To Eat / Consume Lemongrass?
Lemongrass is an ancient plant that is also pretty easy to grow. As we just discussed earlier, it’s particularly famous for its soothing smell and beneficial properties. It’s completely safe and even healthy to consume lemongrass, especially in the form of tea. But can anyone eat it, even when they have some common medical condition? Let’s find out!
Pregnant And Breastfeeding Women
If I were you, I would try to avoid lemongrass while pregnant or breastfeeding. The main reason for this is that it can start a woman’s menstrual flow. This might not sound bad, but that can cause a miscarriage, not a good thing. So, in a sealed package, avoid the plant at all costs if you are pregnant or still breastfeeding your baby!
I think you will be glad to hear that, yes, your kids can eat lemongrass, and the best part is that it has many health benefits. Some of those health benefits include relief for digestive issues and inflammation, which means muscle pains and joint aches, for example.
Even though I just mentioned some of its incredible health benefits, there are some things you should know before you feed it to your children. In some cases, eating lemongrass might cause lung problems, so before you give the plant to your kids, ask a pediatrician whether it’s safe!
People With Allergies
Lemongrass should be completely safe if you only use it in moderate amounts, but as with almost every plant on this planet, you can have an allergy to it even though it’s rare.
Some of the symptoms you might experience if you have an allergy include coughing, wheezing, a runny nose, or even vomiting and diarrhea.
People With Diabetes
If you have diabetes, I have some good news for you! Research has shown that lemongrass can lower your blood sugar, making it an excellent plant to eat if you have diabetes.
Although growing this plant in your garden is completely safe for your pets, I wouldn’t encourage them to eat it or serve it to your pets. The reason for this is that if your household pet consumes too much lemongrass, it can cause problems in its intestinal system.
Featured image credit – © Anatthaphon – stock.adobe.com