What Is It?
Lemon grass doesn’t look like anything special and could easily be mistaken for any other wild jungle or prairie grass. The main trait that differentiates it is its aromatic lemony smell when the stalks are crushed. It’s native to India, Southeast Asia, and Oceania. The scientific name for its genus is Cymbopogon. Within it are around 50 species of perennial tropical grasses known as lemongrass. It’s mostly cultivated in tropical areas and used in a variety of medicinal and culinary ways. One of the most popular uses is making tea. It’s also a main ingredient in many Thai, Vietnamese and Filipino dishes.
Many varieties are also used for their aromatic essential oil which is used in perfumes, incense, and insect repellents.
Why Grow Lemongrass?
When building a survival garden, calories, starches, proteins and overall nutrition are primary, but it’s important not to neglect the things we eat and drink for pleasure. In a SHTF situation, having a variety of drink and food additives can be a huge morale booster. Lemongrass grows like a weed and makes one of the tastiest and most refreshing iced teas around. You can add a little lemon and honey to it and beat the pants off of any store-bought drink. It also makes for a nice bedtime tea when boiled with ginger. Some of the traditional claims include anti anxiety, sleeping aid and stomach soother. You can check out the “sources and studies” at the bottom of this post and you’ll find some studies describing lemongrass’ antifungal, antibacterial and anticancer properties.
Beside beverages, it’s a gourmet addition to bbq meats, asian sauces and soups. We use it to stuff our tilapias before placing them on the grill. It’s also wonderful addition to any thing you’re broiling or grilling in foil. I’ve posted some recipes at the bottom if you’re getting hungry.
Lemongrass is easy to grow and easy to dry for storage. You can harvest and dry lemongrass by cutting it low on the stalk, tying it into bundles and hanging it outside for a few days. Don’t worry, the plant will come right back. Lemongrass also serves as an insect repellent and is one of the main ingredients in many commercial repellents, candles and oil lamps. Some non edible varieties such as “Citronella” (Cymbopogon nardus and Cymbopogon winterianus) are more effective than others. The Citronella varieties are especially effective against mosquitoes. Gardeners in Central America sometimes use it for borders around porches and sitting area to act as a natural insect barrier.
It’s perennial in warm climates, so it’ll keep supplying you with useful bounty for years! Is this multipurpose “twofer” plant in your survival garden?
How to Grow Lemongrass
When we bought our first starts, we had no idea what we were doing with this plant. If it’s any comfort, even with our high level of ignorance…..all of our lemongrass plants survived, thrived and multiplied.
Lemongrass seed is sold in stores online, however, If you live in a tropical climate, I suggest buying a few starts and planting them. It’ll save a lot of time as seed is difficult to find in some countries. You can also try rooting store-bought stalks in a glass of water as shown in the picture on the left. As the new plant roots, “topping” it will take away the stress of supporting the upper growth with nutrients, and allow them to go into developing a fresh root system. Lemongrass is easy to grow and tolerates a variety of soils. It makes a great container plant too.
To propagate from a large plant, take a shovel and divide some of the stalks from the rhizome and replant them. When it gets tall, you can always cut the lemongrass stalks down at the bottom and they will regrow and get thicker. Plants should be spaced a foot and half apart when planting in the garden.
We grow an Indian culinary variety “Cymbopogon citratus”. It seems to do well in NW Costa Rica. It’s a very hardy plant and it can handle being neglected, so don’t worry…..have fun with it!
Research and Links: