2006 Wikipedia CD Selection

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Poales
Family: Poaceae
Genus: Cymbopogon
About 55, see text

Cymbopogon (lemon grass, lemongrass, citronella grass or fever grass) is a genus of about 55 species of grasses, native to warm temperate and tropical regions of the Old World. It is a tall perennial grass.

Cultivation and uses

Prepared Lemongrass
Prepared Lemongrass

Lemon grass is widely used as a herb in Asian (particularly Thai, Lao, Khmer and Vietnamese) and Caribbean cooking. It has a lemony flavour and can be dried and powdered, or used fresh. The stalk itself is too hard to be eaten, except for the soft inner part. However, it can be finely sliced and added to recipes. It may also be bruised and added whole as this releases the aromatic oils from the juice sacs in the stalk.

Lemon grass is commonly used in teas, soups, and curries. It is also suitable for poultry, fish, and seafood. It is often used as a tea in African countries (e.g. Togo).

The East-Indian lemon grass (Cymbopogon flexuosus) is native to India, Sri Lanka, Burma, and Thailand while the West-Indian lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus) is assumed to have its origins in Malaysia. While both can be used interchangeably, C. citratus is more suited for cooking. In India C. citratus is used both as a medical herb and in perfumes.

Other species used in the perfume industry are Cymbopogon martini (distilled into palmarosa oil) and citronella grass (Cymbopogon winterianus) from which citronella oil is obtained. Candles or incense made with high concentrations of citronella oil can be used as mosquito repellents.

One particular alpine grassland variant known as juzai is a staple of Kyrgyz, Dungan and Uygur cooking.

Partial species list

  • Cymbopogon ambiguus Australian lemon-scented grass
  • Cymbopogon citratus lemon grass
  • Cymbopogon citriodora West Indian lemon grass
  • Cymbopogon flexuosus East Indian lemon grass
  • Cymbopogon martini
  • Cymbopogon nardus citronella grass
  • Cymbopogon schoenanthus
  • Cymbopogon winterianus citronella grass
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