Growing Lemongrass
October 15, 2011

One of my staple ingredients - especially for South East Asian cuisine - is lemongrass. I realized just how important it is when I tried to make Thai red curry and pho last month but without lemongrass. It just didn't work. So I have been looking around the island to see if I might find it growing wild somewhere, but for weeks, I came up empty.

Then, when I went to the grocery store early this week, it was filled with a new shipment of fresh produce. Unwilted lettuce, cucumbers, fresh red chile. It was terrific. And even better when I found fresh herbs. They had Sage, sorrel, parsley and much to my surprise: lemongrass. It was one of the happiest moments of my week. I wanted to buy them all but I felt bad not to share them with others, so I picked only three packages. I was planning to keep a few stalks in the fridge to use immediately, and freeze the rest. But then when I was looking at the stalks, I started to wonder what might happen if I put them in some soil. Will they grow? I don't know.

I went to my computer for some research and found several sites explaining how to grow lemongrass out of a stalk purchased from the supermarket. If this method works, it will be a real boost to so many of my recipes out here in Marshall Islands.

I followed the basic instructions (see below). I cleaned and cut off the stalks and put them in a glass with enough water to cover the bulbs. And then I waited. It is supposed to take a few weeks to make roots before you plant them in soil. But today is only day 6 and I have already seen some baby roots. I can't wait to see how this turns out after a few more weeks.

Lemonglass from the local super market

This is the lemongrass that I bought from the supermarket

The instructions say to look for "stalks with a bulbous base, preferably with traces of roots". I think they all looked fine except the one on the far left.

Lemonglass in the water

Day 1 : The lemongrass in a glass of water

Lemonglass in the water

Day 7 : Baby roots showed up at day 4 and at day 7 they are growing.
I will leave them in the water until next weekend and then tranplant to a container.


 How to Glow Lemongrass (from Helium.com)

1. Purchase and prepare the stalks

Look for fresh stalks with a bulbous base, preferably with traces of roots. As soon as you bring them home from the store, snip off all but a few inches of the leaves. Peel away the dead, outer layer.

2. Begin root development

Your lemongrass stalks will need to develop roots. Place stalks in a water glass with enough water to cover the bulbous end of the stalk. Place the glass containing the lemongrass stalks in a sunny area, such as a window sill. Be sure to keep adequate water in the glass. After several weeks, tiny roots should appear.

3. Prepare the soil

Lemongrass thrives in well-drained, fertile soil, and will tolerate a wide range of pH levels. If needed, add inch layer of compost and turn it over with a spade into the top 4 inches of soil.

4. Transplant

When the roots reach 1-2 inches in length, you may transplant your lemongrass. Do this on a cool day or in late afternoon, after the last frost date. Lemongrass prefers full sun, but will grow in partial shade. Use a trowel to dig a hole deep enough to cover the bulbous end and roots. Space the plants 2 to 4 feet apart. Water thoroughly.

5. Water regularly

Lemongrass plants prefer moist, but not soaked, soil. Water as soon as the top inch layer of soil feels dry.

6. Divide

In spring or early summer, divide established plants. To prevent water loss, snip off leaves until 3 or 4 inches remain. Dig out entire lemongrass clump and divide root mass. Replant divisions at same depth as original plant.

7. Harvest

Wear garden gloves to protect your hands from the razor-sharp leaves. After lemongrass leaves have grown to 1 foot tall, harvest any time by pulling off the older, outer leaves. Cut off small pieces of the leaves for use in tea.



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