- Naturally Super Sweet Stevia – How to Grow, Harvest, Store & Use Stevia
- 4 Uses For Fresh Stevia Leaves
- Planting Stevia
- Growing Stevia
- Potential Growing Problems
- Harvesting Stevia Leaves
- All About Growing the Stevia Plant
- How to Harvest Stevia
- Overwintering Stevia
- In the Kitchen
- Sweet Stevia Plant
- Know When to Plant What
- What is Stevia?
- How to Grow Stevia
- Caring for Stevia
- Troubleshooting with Stevia
- Best and Worst Companion Plants
- How to Harvest and Store Stevia
- How to Utilize Stevia
- Growing stevia
- Caring for stevia in winter
- Multiplying stevia
- Harvesting stevia sugar
- Stevia health benefits and therapeutic value
- Stevia in the kitchen
- Learn more about stevia
- Smart tip about stevia
Naturally Super Sweet Stevia – How to Grow, Harvest, Store & Use Stevia
The Whole Truth About Stevia
Stevia Herb! Stevia is a naturally super-sweet herb native to South America that can add flavor to your beverages and cooking without adding a single calorie! However, not all stevia sweeteners are created equal…
Processed Stevia is Chemically Intensive
Although the stevia plant is entirely green, with green leaves and green stems concentrating the sweetness, store bought stevia is a pure white crystalline substance. To market to American consumers, “stevia” producers decided the closer it looks to the processed sugar we try to avoid, the better it will sell. While they may be correct in terms of profitability, the processed stevia product is laced with dozens of toxic compounds, and you would be better off sticking to the white sugar!
Most store bought stevia begins life in China, where it is grown and harvested, then shipped to the U.S. At the end of a looooong procedure, the plant matter has been so highly processed with chemicals like acetone(!) and methanol(?) among many others, the result is a bright white, crystalline substance that looks a lot like sugar – to help it sell like sugar. After all the processing and chemical additives – you have to wonder if saving those calories is really worth it!
It is worth it to have a natural sweetener that is safe, doesn’t raise your blood pressure or insulin levels, contains a variety of ant-oxidants, and is actually good for you. But for these benefits, you need real stevia, not an over-processed imitation sugar. For the surest source of healthy-for-you, naturally sweet, genuine stevia – grow and harvest your own. I’ll even show you how to make stevia extract from fresh leaves. It’s easy!
How To Grow Stevia
Stevia is an easy-to-grow herb that is hardy zones 8-11 and will be happy in a container, making it easy to bring it indoors for the winter in cold climates. Provide full sun, well-drained soil and even moisture until the plant is fully established. Once it is, stevia is a low maintenance plant. Read our detailed stevia planting guide here.
Harvesting and Storing Stevia
Stevia leaves may be harvested singly, or by the stem. Be sure to watch for the formation of flower buds to remove them. The sweetest leaves come before the plant blooms, and again in the cooler temps of autumn. Hormonal changes in the plant with flowering can cause the leaves to become a bit bitter, so pinch back any buds that form.
Make the most of your stevia harvest by storing all that wholesome sweetness for future use. There are two main ways to do this – by drying the leaves, or by making a stevia extract.
You can dry individual leaves or entire stems, but only the leaf has the sweetness you want to preserve. This can be done by hanging stems or leaves in bunches, as you would with other herbs. Or remove the leaves from the stems and spread them on a non-metal screen outdoors with plenty of air circulation. A day in the sun should suffice. You can use a food dehydrator, or even an oven on low – 140 degrees for about 20 minutes.
How to Make Stevia Powder
Once your stevia is fully dried, separate the leaves from the stems, and grind the leaves as finely as possible. A mortar and pestle works well, as does a spice grinder or a coffee grinder. The result will be a wonderfully fragrant, green almost-powder. Stevia is green – the white stuff is highly processed with a lot of chemicals you don’t want to eat. Feel free to use the freshly ground herb right away, or store it in a dark glass bottle or jar for future use. Ground stevia has an excellent shelf life and will not ferment or mold. Use roughly 1/8 ground stevia to achieve the sweetness of 1 teaspoon of sugar. Adjust to your personal taste. Stevia will withstand cooking, but it does not caramelize nor dissolve like sugar or processed sweeteners. A bit of green herbal residue at the end of a refreshing drink is a nice reminder for some (okay – me) that the drink is garden fresh and healthy. If you prefer to not see this reminder, or you want to use stevia in baking – the extract is the way to sweeten for you. Read on!
Making a Stevia Extract or Tincture
Making an extract will require the use of dried stevia leaves that are only lightly crushed – not ground fine. The following processes will concentrate the sweet flavor and herbal properties of the stevia into a liquid for with either water or alcohol as the carrier.
Making stevia extract is easier than you think. This method extracts the sweetness from the stevia herb and concentrates it in water for future use. Bring 1 cup of water to a near boiling, add 1/2 cup of lightly crushed stevia leaves. Remove from heat, cover and let steep for 40 minutes. Strain through cheese cloth or a coffee filter and pour into a sterilized dark colored jar. Store your stevia extract in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks. This yields 3/4 cups, equivalent to about 3 cups of sugar. Now you know how to make a stevia extract!
For best and sweetest results, use fresh stevia leaves when making your alcohol based tincture. While the dried leaves will work, then can become a bit bitter in this process. Take 1 cup of fresh, washed stevia leaves, and bruise them slightly by squeezing them in handfuls a few times. Put the leaves into a sterilized glass jar, and cover with 100 proof rum or vodka. Screw the lid on tight, and shake your mixture thoroughly. Place the jar in a cool, dark place for about 36 hours, shaking the jar a few times throughout. For cleanest, sweetest flavor, do not let it steep much longer than 36 hours. Pour and press resulting mix through cheese cloth or a coffee filter into a small sauce pan. It should be a brownish color now. Heat over a slow fire, until steam rises, but do not let it boil! Stir slowly as you heat the mixture. This is causing the alcohol to evaporate and is condensing the flavor into a thin, brown syrup. Continue heating for 15-30 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Pour your home made stevia tincture into a dark bottle and store up to 3 months. Just a few drops will sweeten your tea or smoothies!
Now you are all set to add sweet flavor and health benefits to your life and your family by growing and using your very own stevia. Enjoy!
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4 Uses For Fresh Stevia Leaves
Most of you probably know stevia as the sweet white powder every slightest health-hacker has in their cupboard. Many of you might not even know that it actually used to be a herb – before the processing, the refining and the additives. But while the world is stocking up on the highly refined white miracle powder, we have found ways to successfully use fresh home-grown stevia leaves and the stevia powder au naturale – green and flavorful.
1. Tea and other beverages
If your tea asks for a little bit of a sweet kick, add stevia leaves to it. Put them in as a whole or pluck them in pieces – it’s your call. Don’t overdo it though – even fresh, stevia can be quite sweet. So we’d suggest starting with series of experiments to find the amount that works best for you.
The idea of adding something processed, sticky, sugary and indulg-y to your breakfast green blend might seem to ruin the point of a healthy smoothie. If you like to start your day with a clean slate, skip the processed sweeteners (maple syrup, sugar, agave syrup etc), and grab a leaf of stevia. Fresh, green, sweet and good – add it to your smoothie ingredients and blend away! Again – test the sweetness; even 2 stevia leaves can seem too much for most people.
Stevia leaf is a great snack for when you’re craving something sweet and naughty. Except stevia is not naughty at all. Zero calories and serious sweetness that lingers on your taste buds long after the leaf is gone. Trust us, you’ll need no candy or chocolate anymore.
4. Home-made Stevia powder
Photo: stevianet.gr Stevia can easily be turned into powder in 3 simple steps – dry the leaves, blend or grind them up into powder, and put them in a storage jar, box or tin. It’s like nature’s fairydust – it opens up a whole new world of possibilities, especially for cooking and baking. Follow the rule 1 cup of sugar = 2 to 3 teaspoons of stevia, and you should be fine!
Start growing Stevia
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STEVIA GROWING INFORMATION © Frances Michaels
BOTANICAL NAME: Stevia rebaudiana
COMMON NAMES: Stevia, Sweet Leaf
ORIGIN: Native to South America
Stevia is an herbaceous perennial; losing its leaves in late autumn. It will sometimes die back to a crown as its woody stems are fairly brittle. Stevia grows to 1 m high and likes full sun. It does best in a fertile, well-drained soil and appreciates regular watering. It will tolerate acidity; preferred pH range is 5 – 7.5.
Stevia is a plant originating in South America where it was widely used by the Guarani Indians of Paraguay as a medicine, sweetener and sugar substitute. ‘Stevioside’, the chemical which is extracted and purified from the incredibly sweet leaves of the plant, is said to be 300 times sweeter than sugar. ‘Stevioside’ is a glucoside, not a carbohydrate and has no calorific value. It has a possible value in diabetic diets as a substitute for saccharine or for weight-watchers wanting to avoid artificial sweeteners. It is soluble in water, non-fermentable, non-toxic and leaves no aftertaste.
- Stevia leaves can be kept indefinitely dried and can also be added to stewed fruit and other dishes. Two or three leaves added whole or powdered are enough to sweeten a cup of tea or coffee.
- A syrup can be made and used as a sweetener. To make a syrup add two teaspoons of dried stevia to one litre of water, bring to the boil and simmer for ten minutes and let stand. This can then be stored in the fridge and used as required.
Recommended Planting Time: Seed can be sown in spring, with a soil temperature of 20°C. Seed is difficult to germinate but cuttings strike very readily. Take cuttings any time over summer and keep moist until established.
Planting Depth: Cuttings 10 – 20 cm long should be half buried in potting mix and kept moist.
Spacing: Space plants at 30 cm apart.
Harvesting: Tip-prune to encourage bushiness. Harvest before flowering occurs in late summer and dry upside down in bunches.
A South American perennial shrub (Stevia rebaudiana), stevia is an herb with small, moderately broad green leaves and reaches approximately 2 feet high at maturity. Stevia leaves are considered to be anywhere between 10 to 300 times sweeter than traditional white sugar, yet they contain neither calories nor carbohydrates.
Though stevia only recently gained publicity in the U.S., it has been used as a sweetener for thousands of years by native Central and South American peoples. For diabetics and dieters alike, stevia is a good alternative to sugar. Stevia also has a mild, bitter, licorice-flavored aftertaste.
While the U.S. did place a trade embargo on stevia in the 1990s because its safety had not been thoroughly proven, it was verified by the FDA (in 2008) that stevia doesn’t present any long-term dangers. According to Andrew Weil, M.D., the director of the Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, stevia has endured centuries of human use without any known side effects.
To be used in baking and cooking, stevia leaves must be dried out and ground into a granulated form: a fine white powder. However, you can use stevia leaves as sweeteners for hot drinks by dropping the leaves directly into the beverage. Using stevia leaves in cold drinks doesn’t have the same effect.
Stevia is not as easy to grow as most culinary herbs, but it has been successfully grown in climates ranging from southern Canada to the American South. Stevia is hardy in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 11 and up, and does best in semi-humid locations with acidic, well-draining soil. Space plantings 8 to 10 inches apart in a location where they will receive full sun. Stevia grows best when soil pH ranges from 6.7 to 7.2.
You can often find stevia in your local nursery’s herb section. The majority of stevia plants are sold as cuttings.
This herb grows best in cooler summer weather with strong sunlight, but generally fairs poorly in high temperatures. Stevia grows well in containers. Like oregano and basil, stevia grows well in pots with one to two plants to a pot. When blooming, stevia plants display crisp white flowers. Stevia typically blooms in early to mid-autumn.
Potential Growing Problems
While these plants have been known to overwinter in climates as low as Zone 8, if planting stevia in a colder climate, you run the risk of losing plants to frost. The solution is to grow stevia as an annual, or overwinter the plant indoors.
Be careful when weeding, as the plant’s branches are fairly brittle. Stevia doesn’t have any known diseases or pests. But it would be smart to defend against pests and diseases that plague similar culinary herbs.
Harvesting Stevia Leaves
At the end of September or beginning of October, harvest the entire plant once flower buds have appeared but before they’ve opened. Ideally, harvest in the morning when the plant is at its highest sugar content. Also, be sure to harvest before many flowers ( four to five buds) have opened. If most of the flowers have blossomed, they will leave behind a bitter aftertaste throughout the entire plant.
All About Growing the Stevia Plant
Left unpruned, stevia will grow into a lanky, upright plant that produces tiny white flowers in late summer. To maximize leaf production, you must trim back the plants several times to induce branching, first when plants are about 8 inches tall, and again in early summer. You can use the leaves from the pinched-back stem tips, or root them in moist potting soil to increase your supply of stevia plants.
How to Harvest Stevia
In most areas, you can harvest stevia in midsummer by cutting back the plants by half their size, and again in early fall when new growth slows to a standstill. Stevia can be dried in bunches like other herbs, but you will get better quality by drying it in a dehydrator or a 150-degree- Fahrenheit oven until crisp. Store dried stevia leaves in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. Wait until you’re ready to use stevia leaves to crush them.
If you live in Zone 8 or warmer, stevia is often winter-hardy and grows as a short-lived perennial with a protective winter mulch. In colder climates, prepare two healthy parent plants for overwintering indoors. Choose 1-year-old plants grown from seeds or cuttings. Cut them back to about 6 inches, and prune roots as necessary to settle them into 6-inch containers with a light-textured potting mix. Move your stevia plants to a warm, sunny location indoors, or to a heated greenhouse. In spring, when new growth appears, cut most of the new stems and root them in moist seed-starting mix.
In the Kitchen
You can use the leaves of this healthy sugar substitute fresh or dried, but many people find the flavor improves if the sweet compounds have first been extracted in water or alcohol. With stevia, slightly under-sweetening drinks or fruit desserts tends to taste better than using too much. Too much stevia may impart a bitter or medicinal flavor. (For delectable dessert recipes that use stevia, see Naturally Sweet Stevia Recipes.)
Learn how to use stevia leaves as a versatile, low-calorie sugar substitute with the methods below. Also, use this helpful Stevia-to-Sugar Equivalent Chart.
Stevia Tea. Fill a metal tea ball with 1 rounded tablespoon of dried, lightly crushed stevia leaves. Place in a clean pint canning jar, and cover with almost-boiling water. Steep 10 minutes before removing the stevia. Screw on the lid and keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Yield: 2 cups (16 ounces), sweetness equivalent to about 2 cups sugar.
Stevia Extract. Bring 1 cup water to almost-boiling, add one-half cup lightly crushed stevia leaves. Remove from heat, cover with lid, and steep 40 minutes. Strain through a coffee filter, and pour into a dark-colored container. Store in the refrigerator 1 to 2 weeks. Yield: 3/4 cup (6 ounces), equivalent to 3 cups sugar.
Stevia Tincture. Place one-half cup dried, lightly crushed stevia leaves in a clean glass jar. Add 3/4 cup 100-proof vodka or rum. Screw on the lid and shake. Place in a cool, dark place for two days, shaking the jar twice a day. Strain through cheesecloth or a jelly bag, and place the liquid in a small saucepan. Heat on low until steam rises, and maintain that temperature for 20 to 30 minutes, (do not boil). This creates a more concentrated tincture while removing most of the alcohol’s taste and smell. Pour the cooled tincture into a dark-colored container. Store in the refrigerator up to 3 months. Yield: About 1/4 cup (2 ounces), equivalent to 6 cups sugar.
Sweet Stevia Plant
• Good air circulation is essential for growing stevia in warm, humid climates. Use raised beds if growing this natural sweetener in climates where fungal leaf spot diseases are common. Ensure good drainage in containers by using a light-textured potting mix and containers with large drainage holes.
• When first starting to use stevia as a healthy sugar substitute, start with a little and increase the amount gradually and only in small increments.
• Take care not to overheat stevia teas or extracts. Such batches may be bitter.
• Store stevia tincture in a medicine bottle with a dropper to add it to drinks or prepared dishes by the drop.
Know When to Plant What
It’s never too soon to start planning your garden and we have two tools to help you determine the best planting times for your local conditions. Online, our What to Plant Now page shows when each crop should be planted in your region. And, if you have an iPhone or iPad, see our newest app, When to Plant. Just enter your ZIP code and the app will give you recommended planting dates — for both indoors and outside — for any crop you’d like to grow.
Contributing editor Barbara Pleasant gardens in southwest Virginia, where she grows vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers and a few lucky chickens. Contact Barbara by visiting her website or finding her on Google+.
Do you enjoy growing your own herbs every year?
Well, what if I told you that you could grow a healthy sweetener option as well? Thanks to stevia you can.
Now, stevia is great for people with diabetes who need to avoid sugar or those that just don’t want the extra calories.
But how do you grow stevia? Are there particular things you should know before planting it? I’m going to answer all of those questions right here.
Here is what you need to know about growing stevia:
What is Stevia?
Stevia is a herb that is used as a natural and low-calorie sweetener. It is also a perennial, which means it will come back year after year.
However, the leaves stop producing quite as much after year two. This is why many recommend that you replant every two years.
Finally, stevia doesn’t have different varieties, like some plants. It is straightforward. Some nurseries sell stevia simply as Stevia Rebaudiana. While other places will sell it as Candy Stevia, Sugar Leaf Stevia, and Stevia Sweet Leaf.
Either way, it is all the same plant and is said to be 20-30 times sweeter than regular table sugar.
How to Grow Stevia
Stevia is such a simple plant to grow. You can buy it online or at a local garden center. You can also start stevia from seed in later winter to have your own seedlings.
Either way, stevia is ready to plant after the danger of the last frost has passed.
1. Plant the Stevia
via abc News
You’ll want to plant it in full sun and in well-drained soil that is loose too. Stevia does not like soggy soil.
Once the stevia is planted, you’ll need to mulch around it to keep the plant from getting too dry. When the surface of the soil is dry, then you’ll know it is time to add more moisture.
Also, you’ll want to be sure to give each stevia plant about 18 inches of space all the way around and leave two feet between each plant.
You may want to consider planting three to five stevia plants to have as much sweetener as you’ll need for the year.
2. Add Water and Compost
You’ll want to be sure to feed your plants with compost or store-bought plant food to keep them healthy and provide the nutrients they need.
Keep in mind that your stevia can be grown in a pot as well. You will need to use a high-quality potting mix and make sure the soil is loose and well-drained.
Also, realize that each plant should grow to be about one to three feet in height as well.
Caring for Stevia
Stevia is an easy-going plant to have in your garden, container garden, or herb garden. There are only a few things you need to do to continue having stevia at your fingertips year after year.
1. Trim it Back
Stevia needs to be trimmed. When the plant first reaches eight inches, it is time to knock it back some because this will encourage the plant to grow outward instead of being skinny and grow up.
This is good because when it grows outward, it should produce more foliage. That means more product for you.
2. Use Cuttings to Replant
I already mentioned that you need to replant stevia every couple of years because the amount of foliage produced falls off.
Well, instead of purchasing seeds, use the cuttings from the stevia when you trim it back. You can root it and produce more stevia plants.
3. Fertilize Regularly
Next, you need to fertilize regularly. If you use store-bought plant food, then follow the instructions on the packaging as to how frequently you should feed your stevia.
But if you use compost, then try to make sure that you apply a fresh layer around the base of each plant about one time per month. Do it more frequently if you think it needs more nutrients.
4. Overwinter the Plant Properly
via the herbal homeschool
Finally, stevia can survive over the winter in the right climate. If you want to keep your plant alive and producing year-round, then bring it inside in front of a warm window to keep it from dying off until the next year.
Troubleshooting with Stevia
When people grow stevia, they usually run into one of two problems. These are what they see:
1. Stevia Dies Due to Frost
If you live in a colder climate, don’t be surprised if your stevia gets chilled to the bone and dies off completely. This happens sometimes.
Which is why we recommend bringing the plant in to overwinter it, or to cover it from frost until the plant falls dormant.
Then it will hopefully come back next year. If not, then plant stevia as an annual. You can start it from seed every year to help curb the cost.
2. Stevia Dies Due to Soggy Soil
It is essential that stevia is planted where the soil is well-drained. The reason is that too much water will rot the roots of the plant.
If this happens, your plant will die. It is important you use a quality soil that is loose and well-drained to prevent this from happening.
Best and Worst Companion Plants
Every plant has other plants that it does better when planted alongside and some that they don’t do so well with.
Plants that stevia works the best with are marjoram and thyme. They form mounds when producing which is why stevia works well.
Since stevia is tall, it stands up over the other herbs. There aren’t any plants that stevia has issues with when planted nearby.
How to Harvest and Store Stevia
In case you haven’t noticed, everything with stevia is super easy. Why would harvesting and storing be any different?
Here is how you harvest and store stevia:
1. Cut the Stems at the Right Time
It is said that stevia leaves are at their sweetest when the fall cools everything down. With this in mind, if you want extremely sweet stevia, then fall is your best time.
However, if you aren’t particular to the level of sweetness, then you can harvest the leaves as they come ready throughout the summer growing season.
Once you are ready to harvest, you’ll need to use scissors and cut the entire stem off that has the mature leaves on it.
2. Pull the Leaves
Next, you’ll need to wash the stems under cold water to make sure there are no dirt particles.
Then you’ll want to dry them with a paper towel and make sure you remove as much moisture as possible.
From there, you need to pull each leaf off of the stem by hand and place them on a paper towel to let the rest of the moisture drain while they are waiting on the rest of the leaves to be picked.
3. Dry the Leaves
via Mike’s Backyard Nursery
Finally, you need to put the leaves either in a dehydrator or on a screen in the sun where the leaves can have airflow all the way around them to dry completely.
Once they have dried, you place the leaves in a food processor until they are well blended. Then store them in an airtight container until later use.
How to Utilize Stevia
Once you grow stevia, you have to know how to turn it into a usable product. Yes, you can put the ground up leaves into your beverages as is to sweeten.
But wouldn’t you like to know of a few other ways you can turn those stevia leaves into something useful?
Here they are:
1. Stevia Simple Syrup
When I can fruit, the recipes often call for a simple syrup. I am also someone that tries to avoid a lot of sugar because of the extra calories.
In this case, a simple stevia syrup could come in handy. It helps that the process is straightforward too. You just boil stevia in water until it thickens.
Then you utilize the syrup. Overall, it takes about five minutes and cuts a lot of calories.
2. Sugar-Free Ice Cream with Stevia
Do you love ice cream, but don’t like the pounds it packs on you? Maybe you have diabetes and have to watch your sugar intake?
Well, either way, this recipe is a delicious and easy recipe to make ice cream. However, it uses stevia in the place of sugar.
Then you can put your stevia to use and enjoy your ice cream too.
3. Easy and Cheap Stevia Extract
Do you like to use stevia extract instead of using it in powder form? If you aren’t sure how to go about doing that, then you need to follow this tutorial.
It is a cheap option to making your own stevia extract, but it also includes easy-to-find ingredients.
If you have vodka and your crushed, homegrown stevia, then you are on your way to making stevia extract.
Well, you now know how to grow your own stevia, how to care for it, how to harvest it, and even have a few recipes to know how to utilize it.
Remember, stevia is a pretty easy-to-handle plant. Regardless of your green thumb status, you should be able to find great success in raising it.
But I’d like to hear from you. What has your experience been like in growing stevia? What do you do with it? Do you have a favorite method to utilize it?
We love hearing from you. Leave us your thoughts in the space provided below.
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Stevia is a cute herb and an excellent alternative to sugar.
Simple Stevia facts
Name – Stevia rebaudiana
Family – Asteraceae
Type – perennial
Flowering – summer
Foliage – evergreen
Height – 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 cm)
Exposure – full sun
Soil – ordinary
Grown either indoors or outside, it is best associated to herbs and spices.
Stevia appears today as an ingredient in various cosmetics and even some medicines as a flavor enhancer.
Stevia rabaudiana is a tropical plant which needs an environment the closest possible to its natural environment, whether it is planted in the open air or in pots: heat and moisture.
Easy to grow and to care for, its leaves are used for their high sweetening capabilities and their low caloric content.
Growing stevia directly in the ground
First of all, note that stevia is vulnerable to temperatures below 40°F (5°C) and consequently is only a perennial in relatively hot lands.
In oceanic or Mediterranean climates it’s perfectly possible to try growing stevia, even though there is a risk of seeing the plant wither when freezing temperatures occur.
> Most often, stevia planted in the ground under temperate latitudes is grown as an annual.
> Choose a mostly sunny spot.
> Water regularly in case of prolonged dry spells or heat waves.
Growing stevia in pots
It is recommended in temperate climates to grow stevia in pots, so that it may be protected from cold and frost in winter.
- Choose a good-sized container.
- Place at the bottom of it a bed of gravel or clay beads to ensure drainage.
- Plant your stevia in a good soil mix.
- Water as soon as the soil is dry.
The advantage of growing stevia in a pot is that it can be brought inside when the cold weather sets in.
- Keep your stevia plant in a well-lighted area.
- Limit watering during the winter if the room is not so warm.
Caring for stevia in winter
If you have opted for growing your stevia outside, the leaves will probably wither as soon as the first cold days hit.
- At that moment, completely cut all the leaves of the stevia.
- Protect the base with a good layer of dried leaf mulch and hope it doesn’t freeze.
It is very easy to multiply stevia, either through cuttings, layering, or seeding.
- Sowing the seeds is done just after harvesting them, at a temperature of about 70°F (20°C).
- For cuttings, snip 4 inch (10 cm) sections from several longer stems, and plant them in nursery pots filled with good soil mix.
- For layering, bury a rather longer stem in a nursery pot filled with good soil mix and wait for the plant to produce new roots.
Harvesting stevia sugar
Harvest your stevia leaves when your needs arise and as soon as they have reached their adult size.
- This is possible both when it is grown in indoor pots or outside in the ground.
If you grow your stevia as if it was an annual, favor harvesting all the leaves at once at the end of the summer.
- Dry your stevia harvest in the sun.
- Grind it to make a powder from it.
- Store it away from moisture as long as you wish.
Stevia health benefits and therapeutic value
- Stevia, excellent for sugar-restricted diet
With zero calories, it doesn’t induce weight gain (but what it is eaten together with might, of course).
It is recommended for diabetes diets. Indeed, for this type of patients it doesn’t lead to an increase in glycemic index. Stevia has hypoglycemic properties.
- Stevia, tooth health booster
Stevia cares for your teeth. It hinders bacterial growth on teeth, and thus helps avoid cavities.
Stevia contributes to regulating blood pressure, thanks to the potassium it contains. As such, it can help reduce incidence of cardiovascular diseases.
Stevia contains valuable minerals: calcium for bone and tooth growth and maintenance, zinc to reinforce the immune system, sodium to regulate fluid exchanges, and chlorophyll.
Drunk in the form of tea, its leaves have diuretic properties.
Stevia is a source of anti-oxidants, that neutralize free radicals that attack body cells. Free radicals are involved in developing cancers and illnesses.
Stevia could even have anti-diarrheal and anti-inflammatory properties.
Earlier uses of stevia include using leaves to dress wounds, as it speeds up wound healing.
- Contraindication for stevia
Ingesting stevia is not recommended to pregnant or nursing women.
Hypoglycemic and hypotensive properties of stevia must be considered when undergoing treatment for diabetes and blood pressure.
Stevia in the kitchen
Stevia can be found as a white or green powder, dried leaves, or syrups and is even included in certain soft drinks.
It is impossible to ignore the strong sweetening capabilities of stevia. Stevia extracts are up to 300 times sweeter than sucrose!
Stevia leaves have a sweetening power that is 30 times higher that sugar obtained from red beets.
Dosage: 1 teaspoon of green stevia powder is equivalent to 3.5 oz (100 g) of sugar.
This herb perfectly feels at home in your kitchen, to sweeten your teas, infusions, dishes, yogurts, smoothies, cakes and other desserts.
Stevia leaves bring on a slight taste of licorice.
- Try baking stevia meringues.
However, some have criticized stevia for being difficult to combine with other foods.
For example, it is impossible to make caramel with stevia sweetener.
- Stevia, the beauty tip
Stevia has also entered the world of cosmetics.
Its leaves are known to soften and smooth skin, and reduce wrinkles. Stevia leaves also have antibacterial properties that are good for the skin.
Stevia extracts are often combined to clay. Stevia and clay face mask: mix 1 egg yolk with a teaspoon of cottage cheese and of white clay, and add two pinches of powdered stevia. Apply preparation to face. Let it work for 20 minutes and rinse off.
Learn more about stevia
This herb originated in South America, mainly Paraguay and Brazil. It has been used by native Indians for many years. They called it “sweet plant”. They used it to flavor their infusions or as medicine.
At the beginning of the XXth century, stevia was grown commercially and slowly penetrated the international market. Towards the middle of the XXth century, the Japanese mastered its cultivation.
Today, stevia is grown in Brazil, Japan, and also China. It has become an unavoidable sweetener for our cooking, without any calories.
Smart tip about stevia
- How should the sugar be extracted?
Once harvested, stevia leaves must be dried in the sun. They must then be powdered with a grinder or mortar and pestle. Keep the powder in a dry storage.
- Did you know?
As a food additive, only stevia extracts are authorized as sweeteners. The plant and leaves themselves are not.
This approval as food additive is very recent, since it only goes back to 2009.
- Leaves have a sweetening power 30 times higher than that of red beet sugar.
- Stevia extracts are up to 300 times sweeter than sucrose.
A 100% natural sweetener, stevia has the added advantage of not adding any calories to meals when you use it!