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.
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.
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.
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:
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
Begin by placing the lemongrass, garlic and chile peppers in a stock pot.
Add the chopped tomatoes and sprig of basil.
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.
Bring everything to a boil, and simmer gently with the lid on, for approximately 30 minutes.
Then remove the lid and reduce the broth until there’s just enough for blending the vegetables.
Let the mixture cool, then blend in the blender.
Reheat the soup before serving.
You can serve with a little butter or a dollop of sour cream.
I topped the soup with a simple chiffonade of purple basil.
note: You can make a creamier soup by using cream evaporated milk, sour cream, or goat’s milk in place of some of the broth.
verdict: I purposely didn’t add any spices because I really wanted to taste the lemongrass. I did add a few chile peppers, but they’re mild. In the end, I could hardly taste the lemongrass. Either it’s milder than I realized, or my lemongrass plants aren’t the quality that I expected.