Good Tip: Growing Lemongrass

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Lemongrass is a tropical plant used as an aromatic and medicinal herb in many Asian, Caribbean, and African cuisines. It has a delicate lemon fragrance, and it adds an essential authentic note to curries and soups. It also makes a fresh, tangy herbal tea, which supposedly helps cure headaches and the flu.

And yet it's one herb that I never seem to have around when I want to use it. I buy a few stalks, use one or two, then the rest dry out. But I live in Florida, and lemongrass grows wild here. I realized that an enormous bush threatening to engulf my friend's front entrance was actually lemongrass - the size camouflaged it to my eyes, used to seeing small slender stalks. The blades grew taller than my head and spread out for a yard on either side.

My friend gave me a few stalks and told me to just stick them in a pot of dirt. I did, and now I have a little lemongrass plant! The new stalks are even tenderer than the full-grown grass, which makes them easier to chop and bruise for cooking. I leave my plant outside, since it's still warm and sunny, but I have no reason to think you couldn't grow this inside.

Lemongrass is really a weed; to grow it yourself all you need to do is take a couple stalks from the store and stick them rootside down in some moist potting soil. Use a fairly large pot; the grass will eventually take over any space you give it. Water frequently and leave in a warm sunny spot. In a week or two you will see new green growth, and the grass will reseed itself so eventually you will have a full pot of lemongrass.

• At 101 Cookbooks: Nigel Slater's Luxurious and Deeply Aromatic Noodle Dish, the recipe that got me hooked on lemongrass.

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