And it’s easy enough for anyone to grow—no green thumb required.

By David McCann
January 18, 2020

I live in Yonkers, New York. (Please don’t ask me if I get “Lost in...”)

While not Maine or Northern Minnesota, and depending on how quickly politicians grow up and address climate change, it still gets pretty chilly in the wintertime. Weeks with lows in the teens are not at all uncommon. I’m giving you all of this climatic information so you’ll understand just how shocked I was to discover that it’s possible, even easy, to grow lemongrass here.

Yes, you heard me. That glorious native of Southeast Asia, and a component of so many wonderful dishes… in Yonkers. 

I have no desire to mislead you. You can’t plant it in the yard and forget about it while the snow piles up and the icy winds howl. But it is virtually the perfect container plant that lives indoors in the winter and migrates outdoors when the temps are above 50. And as an added bonus, the plant is really beautiful. Now, I live in a Victorian farmhouse, so potted “grasses” are historically correct. But these plants look good in any setting.

This adventure all began about 10 years ago when a dear friend sent me some lemongrass ( with attached roots...that’s important) she had purchased at a farmer’s market. I decided to stick a few stalks in a pot just to see what happened. The others went into a pretty wonderful Thai curry. Imagine my surprise when I started seeing new growth on the potted lemongrass. As soon as the weather began to warm up, outside they went. Within weeks, the gorgeous grasses were 3-4 feet tall, and the pot was filling up. It was that easy. 

RECIPE: Tofu Curry with Lemograss and Chile

So, all you need to do is get some stalks of lemongrass with roots attached (I’d suggest a farmer’s market or a really good Asian market),  plant them in a good potting soil, water regularly, and (this is most important), frequently dig up a root or two and cook with it. I’d suggest starting all of this in late spring if you can, to give the plant time to establish before the cold arrives. Plants don’t love being moved indoors, so it’s good to give them a head start in getting strong.

From those three or four stalks I received 10 years ago, we now have 5 large planters full of happy, healthy lemongrass. Yes, it grows like, well, grass. So be prepared to give bunches to grateful food friends. They will thank you, and you’ll never have to settle for the flavorless, dried out stalks from the grocery store again.

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