Notes from Herb Heaven

Lemon Grass

Indigenous to the tropics, this perennial grass originates in southeast Asia and Australia. It has narrow leafy stalks, which grow to a height of about a metre.

It grows in most soils, but does well with some added organic matter. It needs very little water.

If grown in cooler areas, it must be mulched heavily in autumn and winter, as it is very sensitive to frost. It can also be grown in a container on a sunny verandah.

Propagate by division. Break off pieces from the outer edges of the plant and replant.

Fertilise in spring and summer with an organic soluble fertiliser.

The whole leaf is used in cooking. Tie pieces together in bundles and use in soups and stews, removing after cooking. Chop fleshy stems finely and use in salads or to flavour dishes such as curries and fish. Try adding a leaf to a rice or pasta dish to impart a light lemon flavour.

Lemon grass makes a lovely tea, which helps to calm digestive complaints, reduces fevers and helps ease arthritic aches and pains.

On the cosmetic front, it is a good remedy for oily skins. Steep a cup of fresh lemon grass in two cups of boiling water. Cool and use as a face wash.

This brew is also good as a rinse for oily hair. Further diluted with a couple of cups of warm water, this can help to prevent dandruff.

An interesting suggestion from Margaret Roberts is to add lemon grass to warmed furniture polish for a lovely lemony fragrance in the home. You can also add it to warmed aqueous cream, which is then combined with the furniture polish.

Lemon grass can be frozen for up to 6 months, wrapped in plastic wrap.

Although it can be dried, the flavour is better if used fresh.


Beef with Lemon Grass

2 Tbs olive oil 
2 onions chopped
1 tsp whole allspice
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp grated ginger
2 green peppers cut into strips 
750 gm chuck steak, cubed
2 Tbs chopped fresh lemon grass
2 cups of chicken stock
500g carrot or pumpkin, peeled and cut into
2.5cm cubes
2 cloves garlic, crushed 
freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil in large heavy-bottomed saucepan 
and cook onionsover a medium heat for
10 minutes or until golden. 

Stir in allspice, cinnamon stick, 
ginger and green pepper
and cook for one minute longer. 

Add meat to pan and cook over a 
high heat for 4–5 minutes 
or until browned on all sides. 
Stir in lemon grass and stock,
bring to the boil, then reduce heat,
cover and simmer for 45 minutes. 

Add pumpkin or carrot to pan. 
Cover and simmer for 45 minutes longer 
or until beef and pumpkin are tender. 
Remove pan from heat, stir in garlic and 
season to taste with black pepper.

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