Monday, March 2, 2009

Culinary & Medicinal Uses for Lemon Grass

I gave a workshop over the weekend at the Fair Share Garden's Tree Sale on the medicinal and culinary uses for lemon grass. Lemon grass is a great herb to add to the diet to benefit the immune and digestive systems. In case you missed it, here is the majority of the information that I provided to those in attendance. I really appreciate everyone who came out. Our next garden event will be the Spring Celebration starting at 9 am on March 21st at 405 White Street in Daytona Beach. I will be vending with a few of my friends and there will be an African Dance performance.

Medicinal uses:
Immune & Digestive System Booster: Workers at the Moretele Sunrise Hospice in South Africa have found that AIDS patients who drank lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus) tea developed an appetite, put on weight, and become stronger. Lemon grass is high in citral and myrcene, which help it relieve cramps, relieve nausea and stimulate the digestive system especially with the digestion of fats. Lemon grass is also a great choice for moderate immune depletion. Modern life is full of stress and hidden sugars which deplete the immune system and lead to digestive distress. Alcohol is another factor which can deplete the immune and digestive systems. Adding lemon grass tea to you diet is one easy way to help keep your body strong. Lemon grass is also helpful for acute stress on the immune system. It is antibacterial, increases urination and promotes sweating to help reduce mild fevers. This herb is considered a cooling herb by Chinese and Ayurvedic herbalists. Therefore it is a good choice for colds characterized by fever, sore throat, thin yellow tongue coat. To make such a tea, boil one handful of fresh leaves for 2 minutes in one liter of water, let stand 15 minutes, and strain. Drink throughout the day. Refrigerate as needed and use within 24 hours.

Steam Inhalation: For sinusitis, colds, and bronchitis a steam inhalation can be helpful for clearing phlegm. Boil a handful of leaves in a liter of water & inhale. As a beauty treatment for normal skin this method can also be applied. Place a towel over the head to make a loose tent to keep more of the steam in while taking care to avoid steam burns. As a beauty treatment for normal skin this method can also be applied.

Cancer prevention: Researchers at the University of Negev discovered that citral was able to kill lab cultured cancer cells at a concentration equivalent that found in lemon grass tea. The researchers concluded that lemon grass would be helpful for preventing cancers.

Culinary Use:
Teas: Monica Brandies, author of Herbs and Spices for Florida Gardens suggests lemon grass and rose geranium leaves for a pleasant herbal blend. Lemon grass is a 'top note,' which means that the essential oils, which give it much of it's flavor, will evaporate quickly if over heated. For this reason lemon grass is also good candidate for making sun tea.

Lemon Grass Herbal Vinegar: Apple Cider Vinegar is great for making salad dressing, adding to soups, or stir fry. Why use plain cider vinegar when you can use herb infused vinegars? Herbal vinegars not only add flavor to your vinegar, but minerals as well. Vinegar is an exceptionally good solvent for extracting minerals, vitamins, and flavors from plants. Lemon grass is high in Calcium 3.7%, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Selenium, and Vitamin A. Add herbal vinegar instead of regular vinegar to any recipe calling for vinegar. Cooking vegetables with a small amount of vinegar has the added benefit of making minerals from the vegetables more accessible for digestion and absorption.

How to make lemon grass herbal apple cider vinegar: Make sure you purchase vinegar from a reputable brand. You should not be using white vinegar that is 'flavored' with apple. Chop clean dry lemon grass leaves & stalk coarsely. Fill a glass jar to the top with the fresh lemon grass, pack down slightly leaving enough room for the vinegar to completely cover the herbs. Fill the jar to the top with your Apple Cider Vinegar and cover with a non-metallic lid.

Gelatin Recipes: Substitute 1 T of water for mineral rich herbal vinegar in gelatin recipes to add minerals & flavor.

Lemon grass soups: Lemon grass is very popular in Thai soups. When making soups with lemon grass use the stalk and cut it the stalks at an angle to maximize the surface area. Add the lemon grass at the end of cooking the soup so that it does not boil for more than 10 minutes. Remember that lemon grass is a top note and the flavorful essential oils will dissipate quickly if heated for too long.

Simple Lemon Grass Ginger Soup
2-3 stalks lemon grass sliced diagonally
1 medium onion sliced
2-3 slices fresh ginger
1 chicken breast cubed
sesame oil for frying
chili paste
salt to taste
additional vegetables as available
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock

Directions: Heat soup stock with salt and ginger. Sautee onions & small chicken pieces in sesame or olive oil until chicken is cooked and onions are lightly browned. Add chicken, onions, and lemon grass and simmer for 5 minutes. Add chili paste to taste.

Coconut Lemon Grass Soup recipe from Dawn Cook:
1/4 cup of Mae Ploy red curry paste (Find at Asian markets)
2 onions cut into 1/2 in. strips
4 cans coconut milk
2 cans straw mushrooms
1/4 cup sugar (or to taste)
1/4 cup lime juice
1 LB. peeled and cut shrimp or cooked chicken chunks Cooking wine or sherry (optional)
Lemon grass stalks 2-4
1/4 cup chili garlic

Directions: Heat high sided sautee skillet or stock pot to medium high heat. Add curry paste and onion. Stir together till mixture heats through. Pour in two cans coconut milk and stir till combined. Once mixture is creamy add the rest of ingredients except meat and season to taste. Bring to a low boil and turn down heat. Let simmer until desired consistency. Add meat and leave on heat till meat is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and serve with rice. Garnish with chopped green onions.

Mixed Use:
Lemon Grass Infused Oil: Lemon grass can be used to make a herb infused oil in a base oil such as Extra Virgin Olive oil steeped with wilted, freshly harvested or dried herbs. Lemon grass is high in antioxidants which helps infused oils resist rancidity. Use the infused oil for cooking, massage or lotion making. I often use lemon grass infused and essential oil in my Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon Balm for aches and pains.

Lemon Grass Extract: An extract or tincture of lemon grass can be made with 80-150 proof vodka or Everclear. Chop herbs coarsely, fill jar with herbs, then cover with alcohol and cap for 6 weeks in the dark. Strain through a coffee filter after 6 weeks and use for cooking or medicinally for colds. If you are out of fresh lemon grass stalks you can use lemon grass extract in soups. Add near the end of cooking. When fresh plants are not available for tea one can use up to a teaspoon of extract diluted in water medicinally for chest colds and sinus congestion for adults.

Lemongrass on Foodista

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