Common Name: Stevia Rabaudiana, Sugar leaf, Candy leaf
Stevia is a perennial herb that reaches up to 50-80 cm in height. The oblong aromatic leaves are times sweeter than traditional white sugar, containing neither calories nor carbohydrates.
Germination from seed is difficult, comparing to other aromatic plants; reason why most plants are grown from cuttings rather then from seeds. The plant requires rich well-drained soil and thrives in warm humid climates.
Once established, Stevia is a low water, low maintenance plant, but tender young plants are especially sensitive to low temperatures. It’s important then, to wait until the last frost is past and soil temperatures are well above 10/15 °C before transplanting them into your garden. Roots are also sensitive to excessive levels of moisture, be careful to not overwater your plants!
Harvest the entire plant once flower buds have appeared, at the end of September or beginning of October. The morning is when the plant is at its highest sugar content and the right moment to harvest. Organic gardeners in particular, can find in Stevia an ideal addition to their yield for its insect-repelling tendencies. In fact, is a kind of natural defense against aphids and other bugs that find it not to their taste.
THE BENEFITS OF USING STEVIA AS SWEETENER
Growing Stevia yourself is another positive way to protest the government policies that have for long deprived Western people of its benefits, in favor of the industrial harmful artificial sweeteners such Aspartame, Sucralose, Saccharin, Xylitol, etc.
Stevia has a mild, licorice-like taste and is a calorie-free sweetener. If you’re diabetic or trying to lose weight, this aspect may be very appealing. The leaves contain a number of sweet-tasting chemicals that can be used either fresh or dried, to sweeten just everything.
Most store bought Stevia powders have been so highly processed with harmful chemicals to resulting in a bright white substance that looks like sugar, that makes almost not worth using it instead of sugar. The benefits of stevia are many, from the amazing taste to its sustainability and natural origin, zero calories, zero glycemic load and tooth friendly just to name few.
It’s worth to have a natural sweetener that is safe, contains a variety of anti-oxidants and doesn’t raise your blood pressure or insulin levels. But for these benefits, you need the real Stevia and not some over-processed sugar imitation. Once again, the safest way is to grow and harvest your own!