Category Archives: Lemongrass (Serai)

My Tropical Asian Treasure Trove – Part 2

Apart from those hidden Asian treasures in the micro shady boondocks of my backyard, summer warmth has spurred the growth of aromatic foliage which I need, for home style cooking, dishes which I grew up with, taught by my mother and grandmother, food that makes a house smell like home.

Walking around in the morning, at times with coffee mug in hand, pinching or breaking a leaf or two, inhaling the aroma, makes me appreciate what a little bit of each plant can do to enhance our chemical sensing system of smell and taste.

The very easy-to-propagate Lemongrass, nothing to do with lemons, has a citrus flavor which can make a not-so-appetizing dish smell heavenly. In Asia, it is used in soups, spicy stews, sweet tea, curries, as a basting brush for barbecues, as an air freshener in cars, fragrance for soaps and hair oil, heck! it’s supposed to even attract Honey Bees (which is why Lemongrass essence is placed in swarm boxes).

Lemongrass does not like lemons

It looks like scrawny weeds but has very sharp-edged blades and hibernates to a brown clump in winter. It’s also supposed to repel mosquitoes but that aspect is one I can’t vouch for.

The Curry Leaf Plant (Murraya koenigii) to me is what makes a Curry taste and smell like real Curry!  It is a plant native to India and Sri Lanka … the land of Curries, of course! I grew up with this in my backyard ~ yes, déjà vu.

Curry Leaves do smell like Curry.

Can this be found in all Asia grocery stores? No, only Indian run stores, unfortunately, which is why I need to grow my own. I harvest and dry some when it produces its leaves abundantly, just in case there is a bout of winter frost, that’s when it gets bald.

But … there is so much more that can be concocted with this herb, not just curry,

Just a versatile herb.

and in case you are curious (and brave) enough, you might even like to try making Indian Shepherd’s Pie. 😀

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Lemongrass Propagation ~ so simple

I grow Lemongrass in clumps along the boundary of our plot to deter rabbits and raccoons from visiting but by my back door is also a supply-clump for kitchen use. A nursery owner once told me that its sap is a good mosquito repellent but mosquitoes can’t resist me, their Asian meal, I guess.  😦

Thick stemmed Lemongrass

Thick stemmed Lemongrass

The gardening department of a thrift store has requested contribution of some Lemongrass in containers to their herb counter which has led to my speedy propagation ritual. Very, very, simple.

Wear gloves, then select and cut, with a sharp knife, thick healthy stemmed ones, just 1/4″ below the soil level. Do not disturb the roots within the soil.

Cut off the top razor sharp leaves, leaving about 14″, then peel off any brown layers and the 1st 2 outer green layers. Wash off soil.

Nice roots and shoots

Nice roots and shoots

Re-cut the base, making sure there is a short clean “stem”. Soak in 2″ of water and leave them where they get a few hours  of morning sun. Change the water on alternate days.

I prefer to root them in water than to just dig from soil and re-pot, as digging will break the roots and sometimes the cuttings do die.

Rooting in water allows close monitoring of root and shoot growth which is important since it will be going to a new home.

Root and shoot growth after 8 days

Root and shoot growth after 8 days



The other important point which I rarely mention is: in case, just in case, some soil fungus or disease has developed in the soil of their growing area (*touch wood*, I hope not) it will not be spread to other yards.

When I saw Lemongrass sold for $7 – single plant in medium size pot; and $14 – 3 plants in a larger pot (I won’t mention names of the stores), I almost had a heart attack!  😯


: I received an email asking if store bought ones can be propagated.  Yes, they can.  Look at the base where they were cut, select ones that are least brown with clean cuts.  2″ above that should be nice and thick, about 3/4″ diameter, and they should be 12-14″ in length. At the top, if you see an inner cut-off leaf springing out & growing taller than the outer leaf, that’s an indication of a strong plant determined to live longer.  (Happy Lemongrass Growing!)

Lemongrass ~ my subtle hedge

We’ve had ample rain & the Lemongrass is growing like crazy which is happy news. I have grown them in bunches along our property line making them a kind of subtle hedge. Did you know that wild rabbits and raccoons dislike them? Yes, each grass edge is like broken glass edge. They cut ~ so use gloves ~ beware, when harvesting.

Lemongrass galore

Lemongrass galore

I will have to leave them in Mother Nature’s hands now, to let it grow amply so that there will be a good amount to harvest & freeze, as come winter they just dry up and hibernate.

But today, I’ve cut some off to use in an Asian dish ~ Ayam Masak Merah (Chicken in Red Sauce)


Lemongrass & the rhizome ~ galangal

Lemongrass & the rhizome ~ galangal

Needed for lunch dish ~ all from the backyard.

Needed for the dish ~ all from the backyard.







Lemongrass hedge-to-be


I’ve also dug some up & re-planted them in spots further away from the backyard boundary… on a spare plot of land which 1 day I hope to call mine.