Lemongrass, (or Cybopogon citronus for those interested in scientific names), is native to Southeast Asia and Australia, and appears in culinary traditions central to Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam (yum, yum, and yum). In addition to countless health benefits (lemongrass is packed with essential nutrients and antioxidants – the things that fight free radicals), it imparts a subtle citrus flavor that brightens dishes (think Thai Green Curry and this Ramen Soup). It can be ground, chopped or infused into all the tasty things. And put into soap, scrubs and other skin treats.
Before you hit the store
Lemongrass will need some prep before it can be fully incorporated into to your culinary experiments. First, you’ll need to remove the root (the thick heavy base) and the grassy stems at the top of the plant with scissors or a sharp knife. Then you’ll have to deal with the tough outer casing that surrounds the tender, fragrant, stalk inside. How you prep the stalk will depend on what you’re making. You can chop your way up the stalk from the bottom if you plan to grind your lemongrass in with other curry seasonings, or you can beat the stalk with the handle of a heavy kitchen tool in order to break apart the fibers and release the essence of the plant. Hot Tip: bring a defeated-looking stalk of lemongrass back to life by soaking it in cold water for a few minutes. Don’t give up! The lemongrass will spring back quickly after nice cool drink.
When you get to the heart of the lemongrass, you’ll know. While the outer casing may seem impenetrable (i.e seriously fibrous and tough), the inner core is smooth, soft, white or pale yellow, and ready to eat almost as-is. Once the tough parts are removed, there’s no way to eff the lemongrass up. Its flavor and fragrance are bright but understated, so you won’t overdo it no matter how much you use. This is not one of those less is more situations.
Here’s a few recipes that sounded particularly fantastic to me. See more on my Pinterest feed.
Coconut Ginger Lemongrass Popsicle by Snixy Kitchen
Thai Grilled Corn and Peach Quinoa Salad by Half Baked Harvest
Lemongrass Mint Ginger Kaffir Lime Syrup by Delicious Everyday (this would be awesome in a cocktail)
More lemongrass, please
Ready to get more lemongrass in your day to day routine? Check out E+B limited edition Lemongrass Mint soap, scrub or skin balm. You can bath with it, exfoliate with it and even carry it around with you in your purse.
Grow your own!
You can grow lemongrass in your kitchen. Be prepared to commit; the lemongrass will need attention and light and may not thrive if left alone for very long (i.e it would never work for me, the plant destroyer). But if it receives the care it needs, lemongrass can be an excellent kitchen companion. It releases a citrusy, summery, uplifting fragrance all day long, especially when its leaves are touched or crushed.