Growing Lemon Grass
Lemon grass locally known as grass tea is widely used as a herb in Asia and Caribbean cooking. It has a lemony flavour and can be dried and powdered or used fresh. The stalk itself is too hard to be eaten, except for the soft inner part. However, it can be finely sliced and added to recipes. It may also be bruised and added whole as this releases the aromatic oils from the juice sacs in the stalk.
Lemon grass has long, thin, sharp grass-like gray-green leaves, and a spring onion like base. Under ideal conditions, it can grow up to six feet.
The lemon grass has been mainly grown for domestic use but of a number of farmers has started growing it on commercial scale. There is a big demand for the aromatic plant, especially among street side tea brewers in urban areas
Uses for the Lemon Grass
- Lemon grass is a tender perennial plant with a mild melony fragrance and a lemon-citrus type taste.
- The main constituent of lemongrass oil is citral.
- Lemon grass is also commonly used in teas, soups, and curries.
- It is also suitable for poultry, and fish.
- It is often used as a tea in African countries.
- It takes 80kg of lemon grass to get a quarter of a litre of the high value multi-purpose essential oil
- The oil can be used to make soap, detergents, pesticides and even skin ointments.
- It cuts down uric acid, cholesterol, excess fats and other toxins in the body while stimulating digestion, blood circulation, and lactation.
- Its essential oils are used medicinally.
Forms of Lemon Grass
- The dried lemon grass
- Fresh lemon grass
Growing lemon grass
- Lemon grass can be grown on almost any kind of soil countrywide.
- When planted it is ready for harvesting within eight months.
- Lemon grass should only be harvested during the dry season because during the wet season the aroma becomes diluted.
- The best time to harvest the grass is early in the morning the time when it emits that sweet aroma if harvested later in the day the extract will not be as strong.
- Lemon grass is an ideal backyard crop as it does not require much space, or care.
- The crop can be harvested continuously for long.
- Lemongrass can be grown in a pot or any other container ad put on the veranda or balcony.
- Lemon grass can grow from seed, but in Uganda it is mainly multiplied by separating the individual stalks, with roots attached, and replanting them.
- Lemon grass prefers a sandy-type soil, but likes the soil evenly moist, so a good layer of mulch is a must for this plant.
- Studies have shown that lemon grass has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.
- When lemon grass is mixed with pepper, it is a home therapy for menstrual troubles and nausea.
- When drank with tea, it is an effective diuretic aid in flushing the body of toxins and breaking down fat.
- Lemon grass helps detoxify the liver, pancreas, kidney, bladder and the digestive tract.
- Lemon grass cuts down uric acid, cholesterol, excess fats and other toxins in the body while stimulating digestion, blood circulation, and lactation.
- Lemon grass also helps improve the skin by reducing acne and pimples and acts as a muscle and tissue toner.
- Lemon grass can also reduce blood pressure.
- The leaves can be used as a flavour, particularly in fish and poultry dishes, and its essential oils are used medicinally.
- It also helps keep away snakes and mosquitoes.
- In 2006, a research team from the Ben Gurion University in Israel found that lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus) caused apoptosis (programmed cell death) in cancer cells.
- Through in vitro studies, the researchers examined the effect of citral, a molecule found in Lemon grass, on both normal and cancerous cells. Using concentrations of citral equivalent to the quantity in a cup of tea (one gram of lemon grass in hot water), the researchers observed that citral induces programmed cell death in the cancerous cells, while the normal cells were left unharmed.
Market for Lemon Grass
- Available in Uganda’s supermarkets.
- Lemon grass is also available in big shops abroad, distributors in Boston, Canada and the UK.
- Germany is also reportedly persuading Uganda to widen commercial cultivation of lemon grass used for spicing warm drinks including tea.
How to prepare cough medicine from lemon grass
Take some strands of lemon grass, two or three cloves, a small piece of cinnamon stick and turmeric powder and boil with milk or water. Drain and cool. Drink the mixture to relieve cough and a cold.
Areas that grow lemon grass on commercial basis are
- Kabarole District
- Bundibugyo District
- Mukono District