Lemongrass is native to southern India, but it is found in almost all of Asia, in Africa, and the West Indies, wherever there is a tropical climate. It has become adapted to the Mediterranean basin and Florida.
It has been used since ancient times for its medicinal properties. In Europe, it was mainly used to repel mosquitoes before becoming used in food preparation.
Lemongrass stalks should be very firm, not brittle, and pale yellow with pinkish tinges, and with a slightly plump bulb.
Lemongrass is sold fresh, dried, frozen, powdered (under the name sereh), or canned.
The hard outer leaves are discarded. The stalks are then cut 5–7 cm from the base, because this is the tenderest part. They are chopped or cut into fine slices and added to salads, marinades, and soups, always just before the end, if they are to be cooked.
The fibrous remainder of the stalks is used as an aromatic in stocks, sauces, in vegetable, meat, or fish stews, or to line a grill.
In Southeast Asian cuisine, fresh or dried lemongrass is a used as the equivalent of bay leaf or parsley in French cooking. Its lemony taste is appreciated in many soups, such as tom yum, and in chicken, curry, and meat dishes.
It is sometimes used to add fragrance to mint tea in Morocco.
Lemongrass stalks should be wrapped individually in damp paper towel. They can be kept for 3–5 days in the refrigerator or cool room.
They can also be frozen whole, chopped, or ground.
Lemongrass is of no particular nutritional interest. It has mosquito-repelling properties, which can be useful.
Its essential oil is used in phytotherapy and are said to serve a number of functions, none of which has been scientifically proven to date.
Despite its name, lemongrass bears no relation to lemon, except for its flavor, owing to the fact that it contains the same aromatic molecule as the citrus fruit.
Lemongrass consists of long, thin leaves some 90 cm in length, often longer, which are a gray-green color, grouped around hollow stalks ending in a bulb.
Lemongrass is also called citronella grass and Indian verbena.
It is found all year round.