Lemongrass Garden Soup

Because of where I live, I have never been able to buy fresh lemongrass. I could probably live without it, but being a fan of Thai cuisine, in which it plays a significant role, I was determined this year to grow lemongrass. Problem solved.

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The plant itself, here in September, is almost as tall as I am – at about 5′ tall. If the long leaves stood straight on end the plant would probably reach 8 feet tall. It’s a pretty grass, but doesn’t have a strong smell, say, like lemon balm.

When it came around to harvesting some lemongrass bulbs, which is the only part of the plant that’s used for culinary purposes, as far as I know, I had to watch some you-tube videos. I really had no idea what to do with the gigantic grass. I actually have three of these monstrous plants in my garden.

Well, it’s terribly simple. You simple pull one of the individual bulbs out of the dirt. One whole plant of mine must be made up of approximately 30 small bulbs.

I imagine the harvesting is much simpler if your dirt is soft; mine is not. In the process of attempting to pull a few bulbs out, I actually fell over onto the lemongrass leaves. They’re very sharp. I’d even used a small shovel to help me. But I managed to get four out of the ground without killing myself.

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Then you rinse off the lemongrass, trim the roots, and cut the bulbs into approximately 6″ lengths. Trim off the outside leaves until there are no loose leaves left. And there’s your bulb.

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So, I finally have lemongrass. The reason this soup is called lemongrass garden soup, is that everything in this soup is from the garden, except for the onion and garlic. I wanted to use my garden vegetables, and also see what lemongrass really does flavor-wise. So here’s what I did:

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Lemongrass Garden Soup

1 onion, coarsely chopped
4 small bulbs lemongrass, sliced in half
4 cloves garlic
5 red nardello chile peppers, coarsely chopped
4 ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
Sprig of basil
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
Chicken broth

Begin by placing the lemongrass, garlic and chile peppers in a stock pot.

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Add the chopped tomatoes and sprig of basil.

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Add the butternut squash on top and sprinkle on some salt. I use a chicken broth powder along with water to make my broth; you can see the powder in the photo. Alternatively, pour chicken broth (or vegetable broth) just until it reaches the top of the squash.

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Bring everything to a boil, and simmer gently with the lid on, for approximately 30 minutes.

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Then remove the lid and reduce the broth until there’s just enough for blending the vegetables.

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Let the mixture cool, then blend in the blender.

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Reheat the soup before serving.

You can serve with a little butter or a dollop of sour cream.

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I topped the soup with a simple chiffonade of purple basil.

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note: You can make a creamier soup by using coconut milk, cream, or evaporated milk in place of some of the broth.

By Published On: September 15th, 201450 Comments

About the Author: Chef Mimi

As a self-taught home cook, with many years in the culinary profession, I am passionate about all things food-related. Especially eating!

50 Comments

  1. chefceaser September 15, 2014 at 8:23 AM - Reply

    Reblogged this on Chef Ceaser.

  2. Vinny Grette September 15, 2014 at 9:23 AM - Reply

    So impressed with your lemon grass efforts! I love growing grasses but have never thought to try an edible variety. Sounds like you might want to try a different species of lemon grass next year if the flavor wasn’t up to par. Still, it looks like a lovely soup :).

    • chef mimi September 15, 2014 at 9:42 AM - Reply

      I ordered from The Cook’s Garden website, so I assumed the plants were up to culinary standards, but who knows?

  3. A Famished Foodie September 15, 2014 at 9:29 AM - Reply

    Soup looks great- it’s too bad you couldn’t taste a ton of lemongrass. I always enjoy lemongrass in cocktails- which probably isn’t as healthy for you as a garden soup.

    • chef mimi September 15, 2014 at 9:42 AM - Reply

      If a cocktail is herbaceous, then it’s healthy!

  4. Bam's Kitchen September 15, 2014 at 9:53 AM - Reply

    Brilliant idea to grow your own lemon grass. I make lots of Thai cuisine at home so I would just be crushed if I could not find it fresh. I am thinking about trying to grown my own fresh Thai holy basil. I love it how about you? Beautiful soup with your garden harvest.

    • chef mimi September 15, 2014 at 10:20 AM - Reply

      I just wish you could tell me if my lemongrass is good. It’s suspiciously mild, but like I said, I’ve never worked with it before. Good luck with the Thai basil, although living where you do you have a better chance of getting a high quality plant. I also planted San Genovese basil this year and it was nothing special. Maybe I need to change sources!

      • Bam's Kitchen September 15, 2014 at 10:57 AM

        Hmm… I guess I would have to smell and see your lemon grass myself to let you know. However, to get the full flavor your need to bash it up before popping into into soups or just chop finely the very large end closest to the root as it is most tender for salads, marinade, etc…Can you get Keffir lime leaves where you live?

      • chef mimi September 15, 2014 at 11:19 AM

        god no!!!

  5. Francesca (@LaCucinaPovera) September 15, 2014 at 10:58 AM - Reply

    Never would have thought to add butternut squash to lemon grass… sounds pretty interesting :)

  6. dishnthekitchen September 15, 2014 at 12:10 PM - Reply

    I wouldn’t mind growing my own next year..what a great idea! Especially since you can’t get it fresh where you live.
    As far as for potency, have a look at where it would grow naturally…rainy or dry? water has a large effect on potency of a lot of vegetables. I found the onions in Australia terribly potent compared to ones in Canada.
    Also, in addition to slicing the stalks lengthwise have a go at pounding them a bit to break up the insides and release some aromas.

  7. emmabarrett1508 September 15, 2014 at 12:12 PM - Reply

    This looks so delicious Mimi. I must try this recipe soon. I love soup and will be making it all the time now Autumn has arriverd here in the U.K. Emma xx

    • chef mimi September 17, 2014 at 9:25 AM - Reply

      Or, you could just use Thai curry paste! I just wanted to see what lemongrass tasted like on its own.

  8. lapadia September 15, 2014 at 12:27 PM - Reply

    That is some beautiful looking lemon grass you have growing, I’ve never been successful with it. Love the recipe idea, photos too.

    • chef mimi September 17, 2014 at 9:26 AM - Reply

      Oh, that’s too bad. It must be your climate?

  9. apuginthekitchen September 15, 2014 at 2:03 PM - Reply

    It’s a beautiful plant, but wow, hard to harvest. I can’t believe you grow your own lemongrass. Will it die in the winter? Is it an annual or perennial?

    • chef mimi September 17, 2014 at 9:26 AM - Reply

      Here it’s an annual. It just gets too cold in the winter.

  10. StefanGourmet September 15, 2014 at 4:53 PM - Reply

    Hi Mimi, the fresh lemon grass I buy from the Asian market has quite a strong scent when I cut it. Did the inside show a purple ring? I only have experience adding lemon grass to curry pastes for Thai and Indonesian cooking. The Asian market also has frozen lemon grass, perhaps you can get that? You are brave to grow your own — especially the harvesting sounds challenging.

    • chef mimi September 15, 2014 at 6:41 PM - Reply

      I really can’t believe that it’s so hard to pull out of the ground. There was a purple ring. Is that a good thing? No strong scent, however.

  11. Lesley at Lola Rugula September 15, 2014 at 5:00 PM - Reply

    Wow, Mimi – this soup looks wonderful! And I’m in awe of your lemongrass. I grew it in a pot one year and was able to use some of it before it all just up and died on me. I’ve not tried growing it again, though I’ve been tempted. Is this a perennial for you?

    • chef mimi September 15, 2014 at 6:39 PM - Reply

      No, sadly. We get too cold here in Oklahoma.

      • Lesley at Lola Rugula September 15, 2014 at 6:51 PM

        I was so curious – thanks for responding! (It’s definitely never been an option for me here in Northern IL) :)

  12. ladyredspecs September 15, 2014 at 6:21 PM - Reply

    Your plant has done very well greenfingered Mimi. I agree with Bam. It needs to be bashed to release the flavour, I use a mortar and pestle. I wonder if the flavours you used with the lemon grass overpowered it. Search on line for Vietnamese lemongrass pork, a wonderful marinade for grilled meat. You will be better able to gauge the level of aroma in your plant using this or a similar simple recipe where the lemongrass is the hero. Good luck with it

    • chef mimi September 15, 2014 at 6:39 PM - Reply

      Great idea, thanks. There was no flavor that could have overpowered the lemongrass. That’s exactly why I didn’t spice up the soup. And, I blendered the soup, so wouldn’t that pass as bashing it?

      • ladyredspecs September 15, 2014 at 6:45 PM

        I think the butternut and tomato might be in a flavour band that suppressed the lemongrass. It has a fresh lively lemon flavour, but is not as strong as lemon myrtle or lemon zest. The lemongrass is always pounded before cooking in Asian recipes, not sure if it makes a difference or not, but worth a try

      • chef mimi September 17, 2014 at 9:24 AM

        I could taste it in the soup, which was blended. It just wasn’t lively of a smell when I chopped it.

  13. Michelle September 15, 2014 at 8:09 PM - Reply

    How gratifying to make something almost entirely from your own garden. And thanks for reminding me I need to get out and harvest my lemongrass!

    • chef mimi September 17, 2014 at 9:23 AM - Reply

      It really is, isn’t it?!!! Are your plants as big as mine? Although we probably have similar climates…

  14. Conor Bofin September 16, 2014 at 2:27 PM - Reply

    Lovely Mimi. I’m suffering plant envy.

  15. Our Growing Paynes September 16, 2014 at 3:53 PM - Reply

    So pretty. And I love that because you couldn’t find the ingredient you grew it!

    • chef mimi September 17, 2014 at 9:22 AM - Reply

      Ha! Thanks! I’d love to grow galangal as well, but have never found plants or seeds.

  16. Amanda September 16, 2014 at 3:57 PM - Reply

    Wow, Mimi. That is an impressive plant and an impressive soup! It looks so fresh and healthy. Perfect for the season. Love the edible flower and purple basil too. It’s just gorgeous.

  17. cheri September 16, 2014 at 10:23 PM - Reply

    Very clever to grow your own, it always looks so old in the shops. Love this soup, bet it is wonderful!

    • chef mimi September 17, 2014 at 9:21 AM - Reply

      You’re right. I’ve never bought it when I have seen it, which is only at Whole Foods in a nearby city, and it always looks dried out.

  18. Choc Chip Uru September 17, 2014 at 1:51 AM - Reply

    I love lemon grass in smoothies, what a fantastic idea :D
    Never tried it in soup, but now I have to!

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

    • chef mimi September 17, 2014 at 9:20 AM - Reply

      In smoothies? huh. Never thought of that. Thanks!

  19. anna @ annamayeveryday September 17, 2014 at 5:17 AM - Reply

    Well done for growing your own! It looks amazing and your soup sounds delicious!

  20. thefolia September 20, 2014 at 10:28 AM - Reply

    Viva la lemongrass. What a adventure with this dish…doesn’t it make it all the more delicious! This looks like something I can handle–can’t wait to try.

    • chef mimi September 21, 2014 at 7:23 AM - Reply

      Thanks. It really was fabulous – especially with the salmon!

  21. anotherfoodieblogger September 21, 2014 at 8:54 PM - Reply

    Fabulous use of lemongrass! I agree, the lemongrass I find around here in the PNW is always dried out looking. I wonder if you need more compost in your soil to make it easier to pull out? Of course I’m just guessing, I’ve never grown it…

  22. dianeskitchentable September 21, 2014 at 9:20 PM - Reply

    I certainly give you credit for testing the lemongrass. Even if you didn’t want to use the roots for cooking, they’re pretty neat ornamental plants anyway. The soup really does look mouthwatering even if the lemongrass didn’t live up to expectations. Maybe it’s your soil?

  23. Peter - The Roaming GastroGnome September 24, 2014 at 9:39 AM - Reply

    Very good looking soup! I always look forward to fall and making soup.

    • chef mimi September 24, 2014 at 9:49 AM - Reply

      Agreed. Fall and soup definitely go together!

  24. sakinah30 October 2, 2014 at 11:51 AM - Reply

    Reblogged this on Cappuccino.

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