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lemon grass


Botanical name: Cymbopogon citratus



Lemon grass is native to southern India and Sri Lanka. It is also grown in other areas, such as Brazil, West Africa, China and Guatemala. The grass is cultivated, but wild types are also used. The goods sold in Germany stem predominantly from Thailand.




Lemon grass can be purchased here at Asian shops and greengrocers. The lower portion of the grass is cut into ca. 25 cm pieces and sold in bundles. In this form it is used as a seasoning.


Appearance, taste, characteristics


Lemon grass belongs to the family Gramineae and grows up to 1 m tall. Although the name suggests it, the plant is not related to the citrus plants; it owes its name only to its scent, which is pleasantly lemony, as is the flavour.




The essential oils are responsible for the typical aroma of lemon grass. It contains citral, geraniol and other aromatic substances, with citral predominating.


Quality criteria, optimal storage conditions


In most cases the grass is sold in bundles. This amount is sufficient for several dishes. Keep the dried grass in an air-tight container that is impermeable to light; otherwise the essential oils will very quickly volatize. Fresh lemon grass can also be frozen, best in a reclosable container, so that you can take out just the amount needed.


Presumed effect on health


In India the grass is used to fight fever. It is also said to have a stimulating effect on the mood and the appetite.


Form of consumption, use, processing, practical tips for preparation


In our latitudes lemon grass is known chiefly as a seasoning; this is a result of the trend to Asian cuisine. Soups and curries, dressings, vegetable dishes, and desserts, as well as meat and fish dishes can be enhanced with it. It goes especially well with poultry and seafood.


To use lemon grass, remove the outermost layers and cut the inner part into fine strips. The cutting allows the essential oils to lend a pleasant lemony flavour to your dishes which remains subtle and does not smother other flavours. For instance, if the lemon grass is meant only to season a soup but not to be a component of it, the whole bundle can be added to the soup while it is cooking and then removed.


Lemon grass is a component of many curry pastes and is becoming popular for the preparation of diverse teas, whether herbal or green tea with additions. The heart leaves are cooked and eaten as a vegetable in the producing countries.


The chief reason for cultivating this plant, however, is the extraction of lemon grass oil, which is used in medicinal and cosmetic products.


Seasoning tip


If lemon grass is not available, you can substitute lemon balm for it, but not lemon myrtle leaves or lime zest, as their flavour is considerably more dominant than that of lemon grass.





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