Native to India and used as an herb in Asian cooking, its common names include lemon grass, lemongrass, barbed wire grass, silky heads, citronella grass, fever grass or Hierba Luisa. In the Philippines, it is known as tanglad. It is added to soups and stews, boiled to make tea and one of its species is the source of citronella oil used as insect repellent.
During the last few years, lemongrass received a lot of attention from the media when an agriculturist in Israel was swamped with cancer patients asking for lemongrass.
It all began when researchers at Ben Gurion University of the Negev discovered last year that the lemon aroma in herbs like lemon grass kills cancer cells in vitro, while leaving healthy cells unharmed…
Citral is the key component that gives the lemony aroma and taste in several herbal plants such as lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus), melissa (Melissa officinalis) and verbena (Verbena officinalis.)
According to Ofir, the study found that citral causes cancer cells to “commit suicide: using apoptosis, a mechanism called programmed cell death.” A drink with as little as one gram of lemon grass contains enough citral to prompt the cancer cells to commit suicide in the test tube. [Fresh lemon grass fields in Israel become mecca for cancer patients]
The Israel21c article written in 2006 by Allison Kaplan Sommer eventually became a much forwarded e-mail. Read this, however, before concluding that lemongrass is indeed a miracle cure and jumping onto the bandwagon.
But whether or not lemongrass can indeed cure cancer, it is a fact that it is a great addition to many Asian dishes. Below is a guide on how to prepare lemongrass for cooking.
Discard the dark green portions of the grass. Only the white and light green portions of the lemongrass are used in cooking.
The outer layer of the lemongrass is too tough and fibrous for eating. If the lemongrass will be added to the pot with no intention of removing prior to serving the cooked dish, it is best to peel off the outer layers prior to cutting or mincing.
Depending on the recipe, finely slice, mince or chop the lemongrass. In most Southeast Asian dishes, mincing is done with a mortar and pestle to release as much of the the oils and juices.