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.
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.