LEMON­GRASS Cym­bo­pogan cit­ra­tus

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Plants With A Purpose - Le­mon grass

Lemon­grass is es­sen­tial in south­east Asian dishes and ev­ery cook should have a plant. The pi­quant fresh flavour is ex­cel­lent for mar­ry­ing sweet, savoury and spicy flavours. It is high in cit­ral, the same oil found in le­mon rind.

Lemon­grass can be bought frozen or steeped in brine but noth­ing beats it fresh. Most Asian su­per­mar­kets will stock lemon­grass, but bet­ter still, start your own plant. The part that is used is the sheath, or the lower part of the bul­bous, leek-like stems. To use in cook­ing, the tough, outer leaves are peeled away un­til you reach the softer, pale-yel­low stalk, which is easily cut. A stalk with a sheath will root read­ily in shal­low wa­ter on a sunny win­dowsill.

Lemon­grass is na­tive to In­dia and Sri Lanka where it grows up to 1.5m high. It needs a very warm, shel­tered, frost-free site and at least six hours of sun­light. Plants like a loamy, fer­tile soil that is free-drain­ing with lots of com­post and plenty of wa­ter in the grow­ing sea­son. Here in in­land Can­ter­bury, we grow it suc­cess­fully in our green­house.

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