After the last article on ‘Herbal Remedies’, my Green Thumb fans, your request to delve into the wonders of lemongrass have been answered. Cymbopogon citratus, commonly known as lemongrass or, in the Caribbean, as fever grass was native to South East Asia before it was introduced to the tropical regions. Lemongrass is a perennial grass popularly known for its fragrant leaves and stalks. The stalks grow in thick clumps and have stiff stems with slender blade-like leaves that are drooped towards the tip. The leaves are green but they turn to a red colour in the later months of the year which allows them to emit a strong lemon fragrance when damaged. Lemongrass can reach up to 6 feet in height and it will grow on its own. It has a lifespan of around four years.
Fever grass is very popular in Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica for many reasons. It is traditionally used in tea where the leaves are tied together into a bouquet and simmered with sugar in addition, it is used in many culinary dishes. Lemongrass is known to have antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, promotes sleep, relieves pain, boosts immunity and many more. The essential oils from the leaves are used to make various medicines. It is commonly taken orally, applied directly to the skin or inhaled as aromatherapy. In the manufacturing sector, lemongrass is used as a fragrance om soaps, cosmetics, deodorants and it in making of Vitamin A.
Growing your own clump of lemongrass is very easy. It thrives in warm, sunny and humid conditions. A wide range of soils are best suited for the growth of lemongrass but ideally loamy soils with good drainage having a pH of 5 to 8.4 are best. You can grow these in a container or on the soil by propagation. Simply divide stalks from a well-established rhizome and ensure you get the bulbous shoot base and transplant into your soil topped with 2 to 4 inches of compost.
For commercial planting, use a spacing of 20 cm (8 in) and 40 cm (16 in). For your home garden, plants should be spaced between 90 and 150 cm (36-60 in) apart. Ensure that you keep your plants well-watered regularly and apply a balanced soluble fertiliser once monthly for enhanced growth. Lemongrass can be harvested at any time once the stalks have reached 1.3 cm (0.5 in) in diameter. Harvest stalks by cutting them at ground level with a sharp knife, or by bending the stalk and twisting.