Few spices ignited the passions in European and American cuisines as strongly as lemongrass. Commonly used in South East Asia, lemongrass has become very much appreciated in recent years and used in oriental-inspired fusion dishes.
Origin and History
Lemongrass is native to Asia and has approximately 55 varieties.
It grows abundantly in the Philippines and Indonesia, where it is known as the “tanglad” or “sereh”. Fresh leaves with lemon flavor are used in culinary seasoning. Dried leaves make an addition to beverages, alone or in combination with other herbs.
Traditional Chinese medicine has used lemongrass essential oil to treat infectious diseases and fever.
Greek doctors, like Dioscorides and Pliny the Elder knew the therapeutic properties of this plant, since the first century BC. It was used to treat infections, water retention, muscle stiffness and calming the spirit.
In the Amazon, lemongrass was used mainly to stimulate digestion, regulate menstruation, and reduce fever.
In Latin America, infusion from lemongrass leaves was used to treat many ailments, such as stomach pain, pulmonary congestion, urinary tract spasms, muscle and joint pain, colds, fever, lowers blood pressure, headaches.
Lemongrass is a perennial plant with long leaves and sharp increases in the bouquet. The stem is thick and ends with a bulbous root. Fresh stems resemble green onions, but they have a less round bulb. We usually use only the lower part of the fresh stalk. Or, you may use the whole stem, but remove it from food after it releases its flavor.
There are 2 main varieties of lemongrass:
- Cymbopogon citratus – the most common variety of lemongrass, especially in Malaysia (Malaysia) and Indonesia. It is also used as a medicinal plant in India. In 2006, a team of researchers from Israel has shown that Cymbopogon citratus has anti-carcinogenic effect.
- Cymbopogon Nardus and Cymbopogon winterianus are also called citronella grass. These species grow up to 6 feet tall.
In addition to the use for cooking, lemongrass essential oil is an ingredient in the cosmetics industry (for soaps), helps to the manufacture of anti-insect sprays and it is also present in aromatherapy.
Lemongrass has a lot of vitamins, like A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, folic acid and vitamin C and also minerals like potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, copper, zinc. It is also a fabulous source of antioxidants, flavonoids and phenolic compounds. The main “ingredient” of this plant is citral, the one who gives the lemon scent and has antifungal and antimicrobial properties.
Lemongrass can be used both fresh and dried or in the form of essential oil. Either way, the plant brings health benefits for the whole family.
It can treat digestive problems in children, has beneficial effects on the central nervous system and brings extra energy in harsh times. Lemongrass fights against fever, colds, stress, improves blood pressure, lowers cholesterol, helps remove toxic substances, it helps clean the lungs, pancreas, liver and bladder, helps regulate menstruation and improves blood circulation.
Applied externally, it has high effectiveness in treating scabies, arthritis and parasites, relieves muscle cramps, regulates sebum secretion by eliminating dandruff and treats different scalp problems, reduces inflammation of the skin.
But probably the most known effect is the repellent one. It keeps mosquitoes and other insects away when used in repellent lotions.
We usually use leaves and stems for cooking. We can keep clean lemongrass in vacuum bags for 2-3 weeks, in the fridge. If frozen, the plant can be used for few months.
Keep the dry powder in a cool, dry place, protected from light and stored in a tightly sealed container.
Lemongrass is an ingredient commonly used in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia and Africa. The West Indian Lemongrass is a valued spice in the kitchen, while in the rest of India it is used in the perfume industry and is recognized for its strong aroma.
It pairs well with:
- Meats, like beef, poultry, pork
- Fish and seafood
- Fruits and vegetables
- Noodles, rice
- Other herbs and spices, like basil, chives, chili pepper, cloves, cinnamon, cilantro, ginger, garlic, parsley, mint, turmeric, vanilla
- Coconut and coconut milk
- Lemongrass with mint and chives
- Lemongrass with mint and cilantro
- Lemongrass with cream and vanilla
Now that you know what lemongrass is and how you can use it, make sure you have it right into your kitchen to flavor your foods and keep your family healthy.