RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—As summer’s garden herbs succumb to the first frost, branch out with something new in the kitchen: Start cooking with lemongrass. This aromatic, citrusy grass is probably best known for its prevalence in Southeast Asian cuisine. And exotic lemongrass—which derives its flavor and scent from the same compound found in lemon zest—is not only a great addition to recipes, but also is prized in natural medicine for its ability to relieve fever, muscle cramps, upset stomachs, and headaches. It’s loaded with antioxidants, as well, which help protect against oxidative stress, one of the leading causes of heart disease and cancer. Studies have also found that lemongrass contains antimicrobial properties that fight E. coli.
Lemongrass (also known as citronella root) is sold as fibrous, foot-long stalks; look for it in your supermarket’s produce section or in Asian or Latin American markets. Choose whole, firm, unblemished stalks. If kept dry, it will last for about 10 days wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator. To prep lemongrass, cut off the green spiky tops (don’t discard them—you can use them to infuse a pot of rice or, after soaking them in water, as grilling skewers) and peel away the tough outer layers of the four inches or so of white stalk or bulb at the bottom. To release the flavor and scent, you’ll need to crush, slice, grate, or mince the flesh.
Lemongrass works especially well in combination with garlic, onion, and ginger in stir-fries, soups, seasoning pastes, and sauces. You can also steep it in hot water to make a refreshing, citrusy tea. For some super dishes with the lemony lift of the versatile ingredient, check out these lemongrass recipes from Rodale’s Recipe Finder.
#1: Shrimp Dumpling Soup with Kale. Your food processor makes easy work of these dumplings, which simmer in a kale-accented broth.
#2: Thai Coconut Chicken Soup. Once you’ve tried it, this classic, comforting soup will become your go-to soother when you’re seeking solace.
#3: Lemongrass Ginger Whitefish. With just six ingredients—including an easy-to-make spice paste—this dinner-party-worthy dish comes together in just 20 minutes.
#4: Vietnamese Chicken Skewers. At your next cocktail gathering, serve these juicy grilled skewers infused with the traditional flavors of Vietnam.
#5: Stir-Fried Beef with Lemongrass. Fast and flavorful, this hearty beef stir-fry gets its kick from a lemongrass-spiked spice paste.