By Darren (Plot 219)

With winter well and truly upon us, it isn’t really the time for planting herbs!  You might have some mustard greens, fennel or chives in by now, but otherwise hopefully you’re making use of rosemary, thyme, sage and bay leaves in roasts, soups and stews.

So, thoughts may turn soon to what you’ll grow in spring.  Have you considered adding Lemongrass to your herb collection?

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon Citratus) is a tall, perennial grass that is also called barbed wire grass, fever grass, citronella grass and other names.  There’s 45 varieties and often you’ll just find it labelled “lemongrass” at nurseries so you won’t know exactly which one you’re getting.  But don’t be put off – regardless of the exact variety, it’s easy to grow, versatile in the kitchen and even has a few non-cooking uses.

Most well known in Asian cuisine, it’s used extensively throughout the region and adds a subtle citrus flavour and bit of a kick to many curries, stir-fries, soups and barbecues.  It’s also commonly used as a flavouring in tea and can be paired with beef, seafood and poultry.  Try skewering prawns or chicken on a stalk instead of a normal skewer and grill, letting the flavour cook through.  Or mince it up and add to other aromatics at the start of cooking for an added citrus element to your dish.

Added to the garden, lemongrass can be effective in attracting honey bees.  The citronella grass variety (identified through purplish stem bases) can – apart from being used in cooking – ward off mosquitoes and in soaps and aromatherapy.  In India, it is added to soups and remedies to fight off colds and congestion – so great for adding to winter dishes!

Lemongrass can be grown from seeds or seedlings.  It can be a slow grower to get to useable size, and tends to die back or hibernate over winter. Over summer though it will often grow quickly and can be propagated by dividing the plant.  It likes a sunny position and regular watering.  It won’t often go to seed, but if it does the flavour shouldn’t be affected and the seeds can be planted next spring.  As a perennial, one it gets going you should have an ongoing supply.