TIP OF THE DAY: Grow Your Own Stevia | THE NIBBLE Blog - Adventures In The World Of Fine Food TIP OF THE DAY: Grow Your Own Stevia – THE NIBBLE Blog – Adventures In The World Of Fine Food
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TIP OF THE DAY: Grow Your Own Stevia

Stevia is a sweet herb from South America, 20 to 30 times sweeter than sugar cane. Yet, it has no calories. It’s been a boon to many people who want a calorie-free sweetener but don’t want the chemically-derived aspartame (Equal), saccharine (Sweet ‘n Low) or sucralose (Splenda).

(Check out the different sugar substitutes.)

A wholesome alternative to processed sugar and chemically-derived sweeteners, Stevia is becoming more and more popular among health-conscious individuals.

The plant Stevia rebaudiana has been used for more than 1,500 years by the Guaraní peoples of South America. For hundreds of years, it has been used in Brazil and Paraguay to sweeten teas and medicines, and to chew as a sweet treat.

It came of notice to Europeans in 1899, when Swiss botanist Moisés Santiago Bertoni, conducting research in Paraguay, first described the plant and the sweet taste in detail. He named the genus in honor of the Spanish botanist and physician Petrus Jacobus Stevus (Pedro Jaime Esteve, 1500–1556).

   
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The sweet leaves of Stevia rebaudiana. Photo courtesy
Wikimedia.

 

Stevia is also known as sweetleaf, sweet leaf and sugarleaf. It is a member of the sunflower family (Asteraceae), which includes:

  • Other food products, including artichokes, coffee substitutes, herbal teas, lettuce, sunflower seeds and cooking oil.
  • Flowers such as chrysanthemums, dahlias, daisies, marigolds and zinnias.
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    stevia-sweetleaf-potted-burpee-230
    Grow your own pot of stevia. Photo courtesy Burpee.
      GROW YOUR OWN

    Stevia is an easy care plant that grows well indoors in a sunny window (and in the garden, of course), yielding small white blossoms in summer.

    You can dry and grind the leaves into a powdered sugar substitute. Or, do what the South Americans have been doing for generations: Pluck a leaf from the plant and drop it into your hot or cold beverage.

    You can also use it like a bay leaf to sweeten dishes as they cook.

    You can buy the seeds from Burpee.

    The plant reaches maturity, 12-20 inches, in 40-60 days.

    Or, you can buy plants that are already growing. Here’s one online source.

     

      




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