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May
01

If you love Thai food, and enjoy tome yum goong (shrimp and lemongrass soup) and tome kha gai (chicken coconut soup), you know the aromatic and flavorful charms of fresh lemongrass.This beautiful and easy-to-grow tropical herb, known in Thailand as takrai and in Vietnam as xah, is an essential ingredient in soups, curries, curry pastes, salads, and other Southeast Asian dishes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lemongrass garden in central Vietnam

Lemongrass garden in central Vietnam

 

 

 

 

 

While it’s widely available fresh even in many supermarkets, consider rooting some stalks to get your own lemongrass garden going. You’ll save time and money on shopping for it, you’ll cook with it often, and you’ll love seeing it in your garden or in a big pot on your deck, porch, or patio. If you’re not a gardener, don’t despair: if I can grow it, you can, too.

Late spring is the ideal time to get your mama-stalks rooting, although it’s also possible to root and grow lemongrass in any season of the year. If it’s cold outside, rooting and growing will take longer, and you’ll need to keep it in a sunny window inside the house. I’ve started three stalks rooting in a mason jar on our screened-in porch. I trim away the tops, leaving the base and about 4 inches of stalk above it. These go in a few inches of water, with tops protruding; change the water every few days, whenever it looks a bit cloudy.

Even if your mama-stalks were more yellow than green, know that they were just waiting to get growing; expect leaves to rise out of the center, and the stalk itself to transform from straw-colored to eager green, within days.  To show you where we’re going with this, enjoy the photo of a thriving lemongrass garden in Quang Try province in central Vietnam.

About the Author
Nancie McDermott is a food writer and cooking teacher, and the author of ten cookbooks. Her passion is researching and celebrating traditional food in its cultural context, and her beloved subjects are two seemingly different places with much in common: the cuisines of Asia and of the American South. Nancie gained her Southern kitchen wisdom as a Piedmont North Carolina native,and her Asian culinary research commenced soon after college, when she was sent to northeastern Thailand as a Peace Corps volunteer.
  1. Corinne Reply

    Nancie —

    Great post! I’d like to try this. I don’t have much room for a garden, but I recently found out you can grow green onions in a jar, too!

    check it out:
    http://www.cookthink.com/reference/1472/How_to_re-grow_green_onions

    • Nancie McDermott Reply

      Thank you, Corrine. Love it! Can’t get more local than lemongrass and green onions on your own windowsill! You can turn your rooted lemongrass stalks into a beautiful container plant to keep on a deck, or even in a sunny window.

  2. AJP Reply

    This sounds pretty awesome. I went to Whole Foods today and wanted to pick up a stalk but they all looked really dry and greyish white. Is that normal? (I’ve actually never cooked with lemongrass before.)

    • Nancie McDermott Reply

      AJP, what you’ve got will work just fine. In fact, the lemongrass I’m using came from my local Whole Foods here in Chapel Hill, NC. I imagine it’s from Mexico, though it could be from Florida. For cooking, it’s a bit oversized and yellowed; but still acceptable and usable in recipes. For rooting lemongrass for your garden, it’s just fine. Given a few weeks rooting in water, the same dry, yellow-leaved stalks will turn green and send out happy soft leaves, roots of two different types, and then little new baby stalks right out of their baselines. As long as the stalks are firm and sturdy at the base, not flabby or bendable, you’ve got just what you need to start your garden.

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