Lemongrass is used in many Asian cuisines. It is added to stir-fries, soups, and even eaten raw. It looks like a bunch of green, grassy stalks. As the stalks grow, they clump together and fan out from the bottom. It is a tropical grass that is fragrant and contains an oil that smells like lemon.

When harvesting lemongrass, make sure to wear gloves, since its long, serrated leaves are very sharp. Reach as far down the root ball as possible and pull stalks out, roots and all. Trim 2-5 inches off the ends of the stalks and use these ends in stir-fries. The Hmong people dip the cut ends of the stalks in salt and cook them with rice. Remove the stalks’ tough outer leaves and prepare the tender, inner white stalks by chopping or mincing them to add to Asian dishes for a lemony flavor. You can also clean the stalks, cut them in half, and freeze them until you need them. They will not lose their flavor.

Lemongrass can be planted in a sunny location or in a container and is not picky about the soil it is grown in. It grows well in heat and is a water-loving plant. It is not shade-friendly and will not produce as many stalks and may eventually die if grown in the shade.
The aroma of lemongrass repels unwanted insects and mosquitoes. If you love to be in your garden as much as I do, then plant lemongrass in areas where you want to hang out. Plant stalks five feet away from one another, and you have a mosquito and insect repelling zone to garden in. Plant another mosquito-repelling grass, like citronella, for a flowery, insect free sanctuary. Lemongrass also makes a great fertilizer tea that you can use to water your plants.

Many people have rain barrels to catch rain for later use. When you harvest your lemongrass, cut some stalks into pieces, and drop them into your rain barrel. The aroma will repel all unwanted insects, especially mosquitoes.
If you have room for one more plant in your garden, give lemongrass a try.

By Kelyee Ledesma
Kelyee is a master gardener in Yuma, AZ. She has a gardening website and blog at zbestgarden.com.

Photo 1 Kelyee Ledesma
Lemongrass is a tall, clumping grass used in many Asian dishes.

Photo 2 Kelyee Ledesma
Pull lemongrass stalks out by the roots to harvest. Wear gloves since its serrated leaves are sharp.