A Grass With A Difference

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A Grass With A Difference

While its fine to have a dedicated herb garden, the possibility of landscaping with herb plants, are endless, and restricted only by your imagination.  So if you're looking for a herb with multiple uses, including design virtues, have a look at lemongrass.

The genus Cymbopogon (lemongrass) has some 50 odd species.  They are warm temperate and tropical, tall, perennial grasses.

Cymbopogon Flexuosus - Lemongrass

This species grows well in warm temperate, subtropical and tropical areas.  It's a tall grass, spectacular in flower with rusty brown seed heads.  It's not fussy about soil type but will need water in dry climates. Growing lemongrass does have a downside.  Like most grasses it has what I call a "scruffy" period.  A time when you will need to or want to cut it back hard, and a time (in cooler climates) when it becomes dormant and dies back, so in the landscape include it somewhere where it can be appreciated when it's at its best or in flower but where it can be reasonably covered at other times. 

Keep it looking at its best by regular feeding, organic of course, and while mulch is always recommended, it's not necessary with this plant.  Why?  Because it's self-mulching.  Research[1] has shown the volatile oil from its leaves, probably, aldehyde, inhibits seedling germination, which means the mulch is very useful all over your garden, as a weed inhibitor.  If you have the space you can grow many plants and use it for this purpose alone.

Here in Australian flexuosus is being marketed as the lemongrass used in Asian cooking. But it's the species citratus that has the thick white bulbous stems used in cooking.

Cympbogon Citratus - Lemongrass

The difference in the two species starts with geography.  Citratus is a true tropical species and never flowers outside its locality.  When grown in the subtropics it can be prone to rust.  Most stock comes from cuttings.  Shop bought pieces can be rooted in water and once you have it in the garden it can be divided easily.  The growing requirements are similar, however, citratus is frost tender. 

Constituents

Many volatile oils, including monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, esters, alchols, aldehydes and sesquiterpenols. It shows some anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and insecticidal properties.

Uses

The leaves (flexuosus) are used for making lemongrass essential oil. 

Leaves of both species make a great lemon tea.  Infuse one or two leaves in 250ml of boiling water for about 10 minutes.

Citratus (stems) can be finely sliced and added to stir-fries, Thai curry pastes and any dish where you need a lemon flavour.  The leaves tend to be too coarse for use unless very finely minced.

Lemongrass is high in vitamin A so it's a great addition to your diet for clear skin and eyes.


[1] Dudai N, et al Essential oils as allelochemicals and their potential use as bioherbicides. Journal of Chemical Ecology, Vol.25, No. 5, 1999

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of GreenMedInfo or its staff.

Key Research Topics

Sayer Ji
Founder of GreenMedInfo.com

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