About two years ago, in our desperation to find a natural and non-toxic way to get rid of mosquitoes, we got scammed by a woman who claimed that she was from U.P. Los Baños and that the plant she was selling was citronella. We were at The Vegetarian Kitchen waiting for our lunch when she walked in with huge bags of plants, we were curious and desperate, and we didn’t know better. Heck, we didn’t even know what real citronella looked like. She could have shown us some wildgrass and we might have believed her.
Last weekend, we went on the Lotus Pod Agritour and now we know better. While I was kind of socializing with friends and new friends (in short, we were taking photos of each other despite the searing sunlight), Speedy was in the shade chatting with Dr. Lilian Pateña, that multi-awarded scientist and author who was one of the speakers on the agritour. I don’t know how their conversation veered toward citronella but, by the time we rejoined the group, Speedy had bought a huge, huge bunch of citronella and lemongrass (among other things).
I was confused for a moment — could we use all that lemongrass for cooking before they dried up? Speedy said he was going to replant them. Not only did Dr. Pateña give him instructions on replanting lemongrass, she also taught him how to use citronella properly to make insect repellent and how to replant citronella so that we’d never run out of supply.
Lemongrass and citronella are grass. When you buy lemongrass from the market, the stalks are whole with the roots still attached. That was the condition of both the lemongrass and citronella from Lotus Pod, and the stalks were freshly harvested. When we got home, Speedy put the stalks in a basin of water and left them there overnight. The next day, he snipped off the upper portions of the stalks and replanted them on the soil.
So, that’s the citronella on top of the page. Speedy laid wet cloth (old cotton T-shirts) on the soil to keep it moist.
the lemongrass more citronella.
As for making citronella-based insect repellent, that ambulant vendor-scammer from two years ago lied when she said we should buy a lot of plants and replant them all around the house to keep the mosquitoes away. Speedy said that according to Dr. Pateña, the citronella must be boiled to make a mosquito repellent solution.
Speedy is still experimenting with proportions. He wasn’t too happy with his water-based insect repellent which lost its aroma overnight. So, he’s trying oil-based next time. And longer boiling too to allow the citronella to release its essential oils into the liquid. That’s where the aroma and anti-insect properties lie, after all.
If you want to learn organic vegetable farming (the citronella bit was really just a very welcome extra information), I really recommend the Lotus Pod Agritour. There’s another one scheduled on May 17.
If you want a teaser on what to expect on the tour, read my previous post.