Refreshing, citrus-scented lemongrass imparts unique flavor to the recipes. Its coarse, tufted stems and leaf buds are among the most sought-after herbal parts employed in an array of cuisines all over South and East Asian regions.
Botanically, this herb belongs to the grass family of Poaceae. Scientific name: Cymbopogon citratus. It is native to Southern part of India and Sri Lanka. The herb is one of the popular ingredients used in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Indonesia and as far as African and American continents for its culinary and medicinal uses.
|Lemongrass herb (Cymbopogon citratus).
Photo courtesy: treesftf
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon) grows in dense clumps that emerge from tough bulbous base with a spread of about 1 meter width and about 3 feet in height. Its bright green leaves with sharp edges feature in appearance similar to that of grass. It flourishes in fertile, well-draining sandy soils under tropical climates receiving heavy rain.
Several cultivars of cymbopogon based upon their origin, culinary, and oil properties grown around the world at commercial levels. East-Indian lemongrass (C. citratus) is an important culinary herb and spice used extensively in cooking in many East Asian countries. Indian lemon grass (C. flexuosus) is employed predominantly in the perfume industry since it contains fewer myrcene and, therefore, has a longer shelf-life.
Lemongrass herb has numerous health benefiting essential oils, chemicals, minerals and vitamins that are known to have anti-oxidant and disease preventing properties.
The herb carries 99 calories per 100 g but contains no cholesterol.
The chief chemical component in lemongrass herb is citral or lemonal, an aldehyde responsible for its unique lemon odor. Citral also has strong anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties.
Additionally, its herb parts also carry other essential oils such as myrcene, citronellol, methyl heptenone, dipentene, geraniol, limonene, geranyl acetate, nerol, etc. These compounds are known to have counter-irritant, rubefacient, insecticidal, anti-fungal and anti-septic properties.
Its leaves and stems are very good in folate (100 g leaves and stem provide about 75 µg or 19% of RDA). Folates play a vital role in cell division and DNA synthesis. When given during the peri-conception period, they can help prevent neural tube defects in the baby.
Its herb parts are also rich in many invaluable essential vitamins such as pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine (vitamin B-6) and thiamin (vitamin B-1). These vitamins are essential in the sense that body requires them from external sources to replenish.
Furthermore, fresh herb contains small amounts of anti-oxidant vitamins such as vitamin-C, and vitamin-A.
Lemon grass herb parts, whether fresh or dried, are rich sources of minerals like potassium, zinc, calcium, iron, manganese, copper, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids, which helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
Fresh lemongrass stalks and leaf buds can be available all year-round in the local markets. Many home-makers in East Asia, however, pick them fresh for use in cooking from the backyard garden. If you have to purchase from the herb stores, choose fresh lemongrass leaves and stems featuring fresh and lemon-like flavor with a hint of rose fragrance. Look carefully, and avoid yellow discolored and spotted leaves.
Once at home, wash stems in clean cold water. Air-dry. Separate its leaves from the stem. Place lemongrass stems in zip pouch, and keep it separately inside the refrigerator since the herb tends to spread its flavor to other foods. This way, it stays fresh for up to 2-3 weeks.
The stems can also be frozen and keep well in this condition for several months.
Dry and ground lemongrass powder (sereh powder) can also be available in the markets. Buy from organically grown and authentic vending sources. Dried herb should be kept in an airtight container and placed in a cool, dark and dry place where it will keep fresh for several months.
|Tom yum soup.
Photo courtesy: casers jean
Lemongrass features in many East Asian cuisines. Fresh chopped stems, leaf buds as well as dried or ground herb parts used in cooking.
The herb imparts distinctive lemon flavor when cut or crushed due to release of essential oil citral. Before eating discard tough stems and fibers as they are unchewable.
Here are some serving tips:
Lemongrass is one of popular ingredient in many cuisines since its delicate flavor combines well with fish, sea-foods, meat, and poultry.
It is widely used in soups, stir-fries, marinades, curries, etc., in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, and Indonesia.
Lemongrass tea is a very refreshing beverage.
Its fine buds and stems used as a garnish in salads.
Ground dried lemon grass powder (sereh powder) used in place of stems in marinades in Indonesian islands.
Pharmacologically, citral compound has been used in the synthesis of vitamin A.
Lemongrass is one of the favored herbs used in herbal teas.
It is also helpful in relieving colitis, indigestion, and gastro-enteritis ailments.
Lemongrass oil when used in aromatherapies revitalizes the body and helps relieve symptoms of headache, body-ache, nervous exhaustion, and stress-related conditions.
Its infusions often employed to help relieve infections such as sore throats, laryngitis, bronchitis, etc.
Lemongrass oil is used in massage therapy as a muscle and skin-toner. (Medical disclaimer).
Lemongrass oil can cause skin irritation in some individuals when used in perfumes, cosmetics and as a massage oil. (Medical disclaimer).
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