Lemongrass is an aesthetically pleasing tropical plant with a wide variety of uses, including aromatherapy, sprucing up a floral arrangement, or adding a lemony flavor to soup, tea, and other meals. Depending on where you live, it may not be easy to find fresh lemongrass at your local grocery store, making it ideal for growing in your garden.
Although it’s a tropical plant native to Southeast Asia, if you have a moderately green thumb, you’ll easily be able to grow fresh lemongrass stalks and harvest them. Lemongrass is a hardy plant that thrives in heat and humidity. This article will teach you how to maximize your next lemongrass harvest and some helpful tips to use your bounty!
- Garden trowel
- Sharp garden shears or knife
- Gardening gloves
- Plastic bag
- Airtight containers
Whether you grow lemongrass as a potted plant indoors or outdoors in the ground, it thrives in full sun, with at least six hours of direct sunlight a day. Lemongrass loves hot, humid weather and can whither and die when a frost strikes. While lemongrass is technically a perennial, it’s treated as an annual in colder climates. Plant lemongrass in the late spring to avoid cold weather and any risk of frost.
There are many varieties of lemongrass, but West Indian lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) is the one most often used in cooking. Many people also use it to repel snakes. Lemongrass can be a good mosquito deterrent, especially if you crush the leaves.
A word of caution: Lemongrass is toxic to animals, including cats and dogs, so it’s best to grow it in areas in your garden or home where your animals won’t get into it.
When to Harvest
The best time to harvest lemongrass is when you have several healthy stalks that are roughly about a foot tall (typically when the plant is four to eight months old). Find plants that are at least a ½-inch thick to harvest.
If you live in a cooler climate, harvest your outdoor lemongrass before the first frost hits. Indoor plants or outdoor plants in warmer areas can be harvested year-round.
How to Harvest
You can harvest individual stems or the entire lemongrass plant (“clump”) if you’d like. To harvest a stem, cut right above the plant’s white base. Harvest as many stalks as you need.
To pull up the entire clump or to divide your plant, you need to gather stalks that have roots attached to them. You may want to put on your gloves for this. To obtain a stalk and its roots, all you have to do is dig and pull them up from the ground. You may need to use a knife or trowel to divide your plant or loosen it from the ground.
If you’re craving some lemongrass tea, you can give your plants a short trim by cutting off the tips of the leaves. Don’t worry; the plant will grow back quickly, and you’ll be able to harvest more leaves later. (Don’t run your fingers over the top of a freshly shorn lemongrass plant — you might get a cut.)
Pro-Tip: You can re-grow (propagate) your lemongrass indoors by placing a 4- to 6-inch stalk in water. After a few days, you’ll notice roots begin to sprout. In a few weeks, sufficient leaves will have formed, and you can plant the stalk in potting soil.
There are many uses for lemongrass; however, rarely are both the leaves and the stalks used simultaneously. While lemongrass is best fresh, you may end up with more stalks and leaves than you can use at once. So, you’ll need to know how to preserve each.
Preserving the Leaves
One of the easiest ways to preserve fresh leaves is to dry them completely. Either place them on a paper towel or tie them together using string and hang them by a window in full sun. Place them in an airtight container once they are completely dry. Alternatively, you can dry them in an oven or dehydrator.
Preserving the Stalks
Lemongrass stalks have a unique lemony flavor that is a beautiful addition to many savory and sweet dishes. Remember that to eat the stalks, you have to chop, pound, or crush them since they’re very fibrous. You can always remove them before serving your dish.
Fresh lemongrass will keep in your fridge for seven to 10 days; make sure to wrap it in a damp towel. Freezing is an excellent option if you need to hold on to your lemongrass for longer. You can freeze the stalks whole by placing them on a tray. Once they’re frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag. Alternatively, you can puree the lemongrass with water and freeze that puree in an ice cube tray. Your frozen lemongrass will be best within the first four to six months.
Lemongrass is a versatile, low-maintenance herb that is easy to harvest. Remember to wait until the plant has grown big enough, and keep in mind that if you live in a colder climate, you need to overwinter or harvest all your lemongrass before the first frost.
Now that you have all the tips and tricks you need to harvest your bounty of lemongrass, will you be adding it to your garden? Share in the comments below!