Date: Sun, 14 Apr 1996 13:42:00 MDT
To: The Culinary Herbs & Spices List <HERBS.HOME.EASE.LSOFT.COM>
From: Margaret Lauterbach <mlaute.MICRON.NET>
Subject: Re: Lemon Grass
>I just planted lemon grass, but I'm hoping someone can tell me more about its care and use. When I've seen it in stores, it looks like the whole plant has been harvested. At home. can I just snip some off the top to use, much like I do with chives? I'd really appreciate any information.
Snipping off some of the top would be like eating yucca leaves. It's sharp and tough. You eat the white bulb part only. I found a recipe for lemon chicken one day, didn't have a lemon but had everything else, so I pulled a stalk of lemon grass, sliced the white part into thin rounds, and fixed the dish. Delicious. Weeks later, I fixed it with lemons and it wasn't as good.
I suspect some Vietnamese restaurants soak the green leafy part in water they later put on the tables, because there's usually a faint lemon flavor to the water in glasses. Apart from that, I don't think the leafy part is useful.
From: Larry Willey <LWilley836.AOL.COM>
>I suspect some Vietnamese restaurants soak the green leafy part in water
You're absolutely right Margaret! Sometimes the Vietnamese thin slice the bulb part and then cut the slices into very small pieces. This is mixed in barbeque sauces for meat, used as a garnish for fish (along with chili peppers) and is sprinkled into various types of salads.
However the leafy part can be brewed into a tea which has a delicate lemon flavor and is also said to have some medicinal properties.
From: Ellee Margileth <emargile.UTK.EDU>
Lemon grass is a tender perennial that I've dug up at the end of the season & overwintered successfully for several years. It prefers sun and can getquite large (mine was3-4 feet). I divided it when I moved in the fall of '94 and that was a project and 1/2. My neighbor's husband (I was giving her 1/2) got his ginsu knoife and that was still difficult - we thought of getting a hatchet! I've never had any problems with insects and I think, quite pretty. I've used it in teas but found that it takes a *very* long time to dry. I thought it was okay but then it molded in the jar. I haven't used it in any oriental dishes so far but that is only because all that I've seen have peanuts in them & I'm allergic to those.
From: "Susan L. Nielsen" <snielsen.OREDNET.ORG>
>I ... found that it takes a *very* long time to dry. I thought it was okay but then it molded in the jar.
Ditto to that, and with emphasis! What a shame, too. An entire gallon jar of dried lemon grass, all furry and dusty. Since then I freeze it in zipper freezer bags.
Also: You can use the fibrous tops to flavor soups, just as you would a bay leaf, planning to take it out before serving.
From: George Shirley <gshirley.IAMERICA.NET>
We used to have a Thai neighbor, from whom we got our lemon grass start, who used the tops in soups and broths as a delicate flavoring. I don't remember throwing them out before eating but they were tiny little pieces at that.
From: "Mary E. Hall" <IOMA2.AOL.COM>
On a trip to Chinatown we found some lemon grass that had the remnants of roots on it. Robert had that one growing, too, under the same conditions as the ginger...and it died at the same time as the ginger.
Then last summer I found some established plants for sale at a flea market and bought 2 two-inch pots of it. Robert planted his in the ground in a sunny, moist-to-often-wet area, where a storm had knocked down most of the weeping willow trees. By the middle of the summer his had fronds about 2 feet tall, which he successfully transferred to the new house--totally different growing conditions, and it was still healthy! It went into the herb bed, where the oregano and thyme are perfectly happy. My Mom, however, was worried about it spreading like bamboo, so I put mine in a 6-inch pot that we later figured was still not big enough. It was tall but definitely not happy. Rootbound is a euphemism--this was choking itself. It was not destined to make it through the winter...but Robert's did. He dug the plant ball up and we worked/forced the bucket-sized-ball apart into two for pots, which we put in the glassed-in but poorly insulated porch. They turned a little yellow and started getting some black dead marks during the cold and dark parts of this nasty winter, so we wrapped them in plastic to try to insulate them a bit. They never lost it completely, and around mid-March bright green new grass started up out of the centers. Now, as it gets warm, we are taking them outside "for a walk" in the heat of the day when we are home.
I was interested that people said they throw away the tops--such a waste, in my opinion. No, it's not something you'd want to subject your teeth to in big pieces but minced ultra-fine who notices anything but the flavor? (It's high in fiber, too, I'd imagine.) And try using it in your herbal vinegars--it's just lovely, and its taste is incredible.
The next time we cook Vietnamese, I'll write down my proportions for my favorite dish. Stir-fried chicken with lemon grass and chili on a bed of rice--that's cum ga sha sho ot, if you're ever at a place where they write the Vietnamese in English letters. That is the only Asian language I find menu items on without the English--and heaven help me then, because the waiter seldom realizes that the only words I speak are food! (Thanks to the guy at the lunch place I used to go to a lot.) The one key thing? Don't forget the nwac mam*!
Now I'm hungry again.
Culinary herb FAQ: http://www.henriettesherbal.com/faqs/culi-2-19-lemong.html