If you are interested in adding lemony flavors to the foods you cook, you should consider growing fresh lemongrass. Lemongrass—or cymbopogon—is used in many Asian foods for flavoring. Whether powdered, dried or fresh, it can add amazing flavors to a variety of dishes. Growing your own lemongrass means you can have access to it fresh at any time. If that sounds good to you, what follows should prove helpful. It is important to wear gloves when handling lemongrass as direct contact with the plant can irritate your skin.
Step 1 - Seed Collection
If you have purchased lemongrass seeds already, you can skip this step—it is only for people who have lemongrass plants and are attempting to collect seeds from them directly. However, take note, as once you have grown your lemongrass, this step will become relevant if you wish to do it again.
Mature lemongrass should produce seedheads. If you let them dry, you can put plastic bags over them for easy collection. Simply remove them using the plastic bags and seal them shut immediately.
Step 2 - Planting
Lemongrass can live comfortably outside in warm areas, but if you live in an area with colder winters, you may want to keep your plants inside for at least part of the year. Growing them inside entirely is also an option, but you must plan ahead for whichever one you pick.
If you plant outside, plant 2 to 3 feet apart, in neutral pH soil—soil can actually range from very mildly acidic to very mildly basic with no negative consequences. Well draining soil is best. Plant in an area that receives minimal direct sunlight, but lots of indirect sunlight.
Planting inside is very similar, but choose appropriate pots, soil, and locations for proper lighting as if you were planting outside.
Step 3 - Care
Lemongrass needs lots of water, but fares poorly in waterlogged soil, which can cause many problems. Keep your plants' soil moist, watering when it is dry and allowing it to drain.
If you grow your plants inside to protect them from cold weather, you may wish to move them outside during the summer. If you choose to do this, there are several strategies you should follow to keep your plants healthy. First, you should allow your plant to adapt to being outside slowly, instead of planting it in the soil outside immediately after living inside. To start off, move your plants pots outside to a somewhat shady area for a few hours a day. After a few days of this, move them to where you will plant them—remember, maximize indirect sunlight and choose good soil—for a few more hours per day. Finally, after your plants are adapted to being outside, you can plant them safely.
Step 4 - Harvesting
You can easily harvest lemongrass yourself once it is mature. Remove an entire bulb from the bottom of the plant. The entire section is useful; both the bottom bulb and the leaves are used in cooking.