Finger grass is a branching herb comprised of straight, hollow stems and elongated lanceolate to elliptical leaves that grow in an opposite formation around the cylindrical stems. The leaves are slender, tapering to a point, and average 2 to 6 centimeters in length and.5 to 1 centimeter in width. The grey-green leaves are also smooth to the touch, thin, and pliable, with finely serrated edges. The stems are thick in appearance but have a hollow center, creating a smooth, crisp, and watery texture. The pale green stems also have a light, succulent, and spongy consistency, lightly coated in fine hairs. Finger grass emits a refreshing, citrus, and herbal aroma and the stems and leaves have a vegetal, citrusy, and earthy, spice-filled flavor. Some consumers recognize the leaves as having a bright and acidic quality, filled with undertones of sweet cumin and curry flavor, mixed with notes of lemon and dill. In addition to the leaves and stems, finger grass seasonally produces tubular flowers that showcase pale pink, purple, and light blue hues.
Finger grass has a bright, complex flavor that is mainly used as a finishing element on savory main dishes. The leaves should be washed and gently torn, chopped, or crushed to release their flavor, and they can be sprinkled into salads, minced into dips and marinades, or used as an edible garnish for roasted meats, light sauces, or grain dishes. In Southeast Asia, finger grass is frequently used in Vietnamese cuisine, as well as Cambodian, and Thai cuisine on a smaller scale. The leaves are traditionally served fresh at the center of the dinner table, along with other herbs and raw vegetables. These accompaniments are added to curries, stews, and soups such as pho, and each guest can determine how much of each herb is incorporated into their dish for custom flavor combinations. Finger grass can also be sauteed or steamed as a simple side dish, or the stems can be roughly chopped and added to stir-fries. While more untraditional, some mixologists in Southeast Asia have begun muddling finger grass into a refreshing cocktail to modernize the herb. In Cambodia, finger grass is placed on the roofs of houses and dehydrated for extended use as a dried herb. Finger grass pairs well with meats including poultry, beef, pork, and fish; other herbs such as lemongrass, basil, and mint; steamed rice; lemon; lime; bell peppers; peas; broccoli, water spinach, carrots, and peanuts. Whole, unwashed Finger grass is highly perishable and will only keep for a few days in the refrigerator when loosely wrapped in plastic or a damp paper towel. The herb should be used immediately for the best quality and flavor.
Finger grass is available year-round in Southeast Asia.