Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A Bag of Lemongrass

It's not that I try to attract strange looks from strangers, but is it wrong to hope that I get some anyway?

My latest experiment involving growing my own lemongrass at home has officially failed. I suspect this is largely due to a lack of watering. When I'm home, I often forget to water my lemongrass, and when I'm on the road, my wife doesn't always remember either. If I want to be able to grow my own lemongrass, this means two things: I need to find another strategy to keep it watered, and I need to find fresh new lemongrass to try to use as a starter.

Fortunately, I'm in Mountain View, CA this week, and I know just the place here to get fresh lemongrass stalks. In fact, I bought some last time I was here, but there were issues. I went to that market on Monday of that week, and they had plenty of lemongrass. Some of it even had shoots at the bulb, perfect for growing. But, having no way to keep it fresh at my hotel room, I decided to return on Friday on my way to the airport, and pick it up then.

On Friday, their stock was greatly diminished, and what was left was all moldy. That's right, every single bulb had mold growing out of the cut area. Unusable. My strategy this week involved visiting the market every day that I'm here, until I find some suitable lemongrass, and then buy it and keep it in a glass of water in my hotel room, and hope that housekeeping doesn't mess with it.

On Monday, I went to the market, and discovered a bounty of beautiful-looking lemongrass, including a stalk with shoots at the end. I bought it on the spot. As I was walking out of the market, I realized that I didn't have anything to keep it in at the hotel. If I had scissors or a knife, which I couldn't really take past the TSA, I could cut the top off of a plastic water bottle and use that. I could use one of the glasses found in my hotel room, but I'm sure housecleaning wouldn't appreciate it.

Fortunately, when I walked into another market down the street, I found some glass tumblers with Crown Royal printed on the front, for only $1.29/ea ($1.40 with tax). A little short, but one would do the job nicely, at least for a week. My plan involves keeping the tumbler next to the window, with the shades open during the day, and a note asking housecleaning not to move my plants or close the shade. On Friday I will empty the glass, bring my lemongrass with me to the training center, put it back in the glass with some water, and let my students enjoy it with me while they take their test. Then I will pat it dry and move it to my suitcase. I have put lemongrass in my suitcase before, and the TSA doesn't seem to mind. What they did mind on that trip was the foot and a half-long salami that I also brought back in the same suitcase, which probably looked like a club in the X-ray. Don't worry, they eventually let me take that home too.

When I left the market with the lemongrass, I didn't have it in a bag. I was just some guy walking down the street with a stalk of lemongrass in his hand. I even went into a bookstore with it and walked around for a while, and nobody seemed to notice. Then when I bought the tumbler, the clerk apparently thought I needed a brown paper bag for it, like one would get at the liquor store. I put the lemongrass in there as well, and walked around with a brown paper bag with lemongrass sticking out of the top. Again, no strange looks, until I decided to get dinner.

People give me a hard time, but even when I'm on the road, I rarely eat out. I usually buy takeout at my restaurant of choice and then bring it back to my hotel to enjoy. I have work to do, and my hotel has an Internet connection. It's as simple as that. So I walked up to a random Thai restaurant and started looking through the menu. The hostess had her podium outside, right next to the menu, and became the first person to ask about my lemongrass.

"What's that? Lemongrass?" She looked Thai, so I figured she would know lemongrass better than me.
"Yeah, it's lemongrass."
"What do you use it for? Cooking?" Do you know a whole lot of other uses for it, lady?
"Yeah, I cook with it."
"What sort of things do you cook with it? Tom yun gun?"
"Well, actually, I make ice cream." This earned me the sort of strange look I expected.
"You make... ice cream with it?"
"Um. Yeah. I make ice cream with ginger and lemongrass. It's really good."

Speaking of which, it's just about time for me to make some of that, isn't it? I haven't made homemade ice cream for a whole. Anyway, I ordered my food, and she had me wait inside for it. While I was waiting, she asked to see my lemongrass, and she commented on how good the condition was.

"Very hard bulb. You have very good lemongrass. If squishy, not good." Good to know. I would have liked to chat with her more about it, but my food arrived. Not the best Thai curry I've ever had, but still quite good.

I brought it all back to the hotel, filled my Crown Royal glass with water, and added the lemongrass. I actually bought a bundle of three stalks. The glass wasn't as short as I expected, but it was still short. I hope my lemongrass will forgive me until I can get it properly set up at home. With luck, I'll be able to get my hydroponic garden working during this next break, which will take care of my watering problems, at least at the forgetfulness level.

My camera isn't feeling too hot these days, but my mother-in-law let me borrow theirs for the week, so I actually took some pictures. Enjoy.

1 comment:

  1. those bulbs do look like they will grow nicely. you can actually leave them in the glass until you see some roots coming out and then only plant them. they need lots of sunshine. and watered at least once a day. once they start growing they will grow and grow and grow like grass!


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