Repel Mosquitoes with These Plants, Part 3: Cooking with Lemongrass and 2 DIY Bug Spray Recipes

Reader Contribution by Julie Fryer and Clovers Garden
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Photo by iStock/photographer unkown

Click here to read Part 1andhere for Part 2of this series.

Lemongrass is more than just a beautiful garden plant – it’s a favored ingredient in Asian and Thai cooking, perfect for stir fries, marinades, and grilling. All portions of the plant are edible and add lemony flavor from Happy Hour to the dessert course.

This great plant also grows well all season so you can harvest frequently through the summer.

Harvesting Lemongrass

Lemongrass grows lots of stems out of a bulbous base and the lower portions are edible. When stalks reach about ½-inch thick and the plant is at least 12 inches tall, you can harvest the stem.

Just twist off at the base (much like picking rhubarb) or cut off with a sharp knife. The plant will continue to grow throughout the season and can be harvested until the first frost.

Cooking with Lemongrass

Photo by iStock/photographer unkown

After harvesting, remove the outer, woody layers and leaf tips as they can taste bitter. The remaining portions of the plant are all edible and will add a delicious hint of lemon to your dishes. Here are just a few ideas for cooking with this amazing plant:

Fresh Leaves. Whole fresh leaves can be tough and must be mashed, simmered, and chopped very finely if you plan on eating them. They can be used, though, brewed into hot or cold tea; coarsely chopped and added to marinades or stews, or submerged in oil or vinegar for a lemon infusion.

Dried Leaves. Place in a dehydrator and dry to the point where leaves can be crumbled and ground  such as with a bay leaf. Store in an airtight container and use either whole or ground to flavor meats, vegetables, and sauces. Whole dried leaves are great added to stew or combined with other herbs for a meat rub.

Bulbs and Stalks. The bulbous portion and lower thicker stalks are the most commonly used part in cooking. Similar to how you would prepare scallions, slice into rings and add to stir fries or grilled dishes or slightly mash to release flavor into your dish.

Try using the whole stalk as a meat skewer when grilling to infuse your dinner with lemon-flavor. Lemongrass can have a hint of ginger which is complemented if combined with dishes using chili pepper, garlic, or turmeric. Mashed leaves, whole bulbs, or sliced rings can be frozen for up to six months.

Make Your Own Mosquito Repellent

Photo courtesy of Centers for Disease Control

Why turn to chemicals when you can use common garden plants and grocery ingredients to make your own mosquito repellent? All-natural and really effective, these concoctions have been used for centuries to deter insects. And the bonus: they’re much cheaper than store-bought bug sprays! Just make sure to test first on your skin or clothing to make sure it won’t cause a rash or damage the fabric.

Vinegar of Four Thieves Recipe

This powerful bug repellent dates from medieval times. Lore says thieves used it during the Black Plague to protect them from disease while they were robbing the sick. Scientists now think it repelled the fleas that carried the disease. Be warned: It is very strong smelling!


• 32 oz. Apple Cider Vinegar
• 2 Tbsp of each of these dried herbs: sage, rosemary, lemon thyme, mint, and lavender


Combine vinegar and herbs into a large glass jar and seal tightly. Shake well every day for three weeks. After 3 weeks, strain the herbs. Mix remaining liquid with equal parts water and keep in the refrigerator in a spray bottle.

Herb Combo Witch Hazel Spray Recipe

This spray uses multiple fresh or dried herbs and smells great while keeping bugs at bay. Tweak your batch to make your own signature scent.


• 1 cup distilled water
• 1 cup witch hazel
• 4 Tbsp dried herbs or 1 cup of chopped herbs (include at least one mint family herb)


Bring distilled water to a boil and add herbs. Stir well and turn off heat. Cover and let steep until cooled. Strain herbs and mix remaining liquid with witch hazel. Pour into a spray bottle and keep refrigerated.

You can also use these recipes to make a homemade “mosquito strip” by spraying them onto pieces of cloth and hanging near your outdoor spaces. To keep the odor strong, you’ll need to keep the strips moist, though, so the concoction doesn’t quickly evaporate.

Julie Fryer is a landscaper, gardener, and sugar-maker. Clovers Garden is offering a free Mosquito Repellent Plants ebook which also includes five original garden designs (like the one shown here). Readers can gain instant online access by signing up hereEven more great ideas can be found at their website.Any gardening questions, feel free to contact Julie at Read all of Julie’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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