What to do with lemongrass is interesting since it is a particularly versatile herb oft used in Thai stews and curries, but also to attract bees, help us relax and as a diuretic; and a host of other claims, some substantiated.
Here we will discuss how to grow the herb and some simple ways to enjoy it in your cooking. As a beekeeper I am particularly interested owing to claims that it will attract feral swarms to an empty hive.
What to do with lemongrass when you are cooking a soup, stew or curry is important as the hard outer leaves are rather woody and inedible.
Most cooks use herbs and spices in a powdered form; it makes everything so much easier but much is lost in the process. Using raw cinnamon bark or a stick of lemongrass in your soups and stews may at first glance be intimidating, but really it need not be.
There are two parts to your lemongrass; tough outer leaves that are not edible but could be used whole in your stew to impart that wonderful flavour, reminiscent of citrus, hence the name, to your cooking. You may just toss them into the can intended for garden waste.
Then there is the softer inner core; that's what we are really after. It has a pale yellowy colour; finely-chopped you can add it directly to your stews and curries. It is completely edible.
You may be lucky when buying your lemongrass sticks; has the farmer left some with roots on? Don't discard the remains; plant them in your own garden.
Choose only those sticks that have obviously been recently-harvested. Down near the root it should be a yellowy colour becoming increasingly green towards the leaf end; if they look old they probably are. Ask the attendant when fresh herbs will be arriving.
Wash your sticks; retaining about 15 cm, cut off the leaves.
You need to be a bit hard-hearted when chopping up your lemongrass. Cut off most of the bulby ends; they are hard and woody and you'll be spitting bits out of your stews and soups. In any case, the more you leave with the root the greater the chance that your cutting will take in the garden.
Then using a sharp knife cut a slit down the stick, removing the hard outer layers; they really aren't edible. It's that yellowy inner core you are after; is that fragrant scent that greets you not absolutely terrific?
Using your sharp knife cut the lower two-thirds into small circles; these you can crush or blend but I find they are very soft after cooking.
The upper third tends to be tough; use whole pieces in your stews, removing them first if you plan to liquidise.
Now use these chunks of lemongrass just as you would any other herb or spice. The softer roundels cook down to a fine very-fragrant mush; the upper sticks you'd remove as you would a piece of cinnamon bark.
Puzzling what to do with lemongrass today, I have used it today in a butternut soup instead of ginger. Tomorrow it will be in a mutton curry or vegetable-stew.
You can freeze your lemongrass just as you might do peppadews, one of our other favourite spices, in a sealed transparent-plastic packet; it will keep readily for a year.
If the powder from the store is really fresh it's okay but soon after the container is opened it begins to oxidise and lose its flavour; and nutrient value too.
Herbs and spices have many unknown and often unresearched phytochemicals. There are indications that some of those in lemongrass have beneficial anti-inflammatory properties; that is important for all of us. Who would not benefit from less angry blood vessels, muscles and joints?
Those who are unduly anxious, and others wary of taking diuretics, will find that a lemongrass tea enjoyed daily has some benefit.
It is well known in beekeeping circles that using the essence of lemongrass in a decoy hive will attract a feral swarm. I am about to start testing with sticks, freshly-harvested from the garden.
Lemongrass likes a sunny but not too hot area to grow; there it will thrive and multiply. Our first three attempts up against a concrete wall were doomed to fail but now we have a very large patch in the garden. It is frost-resistant.
It is part of our philosophy not to take capsules and powders, or an essence, but where possible to grow the herb or spice; lemongrass has proved to be one of the simpler plants to propagate.
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