Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Lemongrass at Last

Two lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) seedlings found their way into my garden last week when I bought two plants from Green Acres.  During the last two decades of living here in California, this is the first time I owned a live lemongrass!  

When I was growing up in the Philippines, my grandmother always had a huge specimen of this herb in our backyard.  I can still remember how it grew so robustly in a seemingly shady space as it was situated between the banana plants and a dwarf jackfruit tree.  Whenever my grandmother prepared fresh-water fish and shell fish, which were so common in our diet back then, I always expected she'd ask me to get some leaves of the 'baraniw' (the Ilocano term for the lemongrass) for her.

From what I can recall, the plant prefers to grow in soil rich is organic matter.  My grandmother did not have to water her plant since it rained almost nine months per year in her garden.  In my case, however, I will have to compensate for the dry condition of the area through watering until the plants get established. 

During my growing up years, I never saw a lemongrass flower - which means that the only method of propagation for the plant I've seen so far is cloning.  However, I am prepared to see the effect of the different photoperiod on this side of the globe on the flowering of lemongrass.  It will be a good experience to grow this tropical plant in our Mediterranean climate. 

So far, the plants have been transferred into larger pots although I intend to plant one of them in the ground soon.

The lemongrass looks nondescript but the citrusy fragrance of the plant is not common at all. 


Bom said...

I'm not familiar with lemongrass and fish. How is it prepared? We usually use our lemongrass for grilled chicken and Thai cooking. My favorite use for it which is not practical for us to cook ourselves is lechon stuffing.

Amum ti ag Ilokano?

Pura Vida said...

this is one of my favorite flavors in asian cooking. did not know how to grow it. thanks.

GirlSprout said...

My mom grows lemon grass in New Orleans. She uses it in a Burmese fish stew she makes. I've been thinking of growing some myself, but I wasn't sure how it would do in the dry climate of Santa Fe.

Helen Lewis said...

Bom --
Wen, ammok ti ag-Ilocano! My grandmother used to cook attasi (mudfish), paltat, bisukol and leddeg with lemon grass. It is very effective in removing the fishy smell and replacing it with fresh citrus flavor.

Sika, ammom met ti ag Ilocano?

Helen Lewis said...

Pura Vida --
It is so easy to grow. Fill up any container with potting soil and plant your seedlings in it. Cover only the roots with soil. Leave it in the sun (4-6 hours per day) and water regularly making sure that the root area is getting wet. When you get more comfortable with it, plant it into the ground. Harvest only leaves and stalks that you need and leave the rest of the plant to continue growing.

Helen Lewis said...

GirlSprout --
I am guessing that the lemongrass, just like most of the tropical plants that we already grow here in the States, will do fine with sufficient water. Under natural conditions, they will not be as robust as their counterparts growing in countries with 75%+ humidity for sure. But with a little manipulation of the growing environment, any gardener can grow lemongrass

Bom said...

Wen. Basit lang. Half of my hometown speaks Pangasinan and the other half speaks Ilokano both of which I can understand very well. I don't really speak either though. I'm more comfortable speaking Ilonggo. Go figure.

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