What is it?
What is Stevia anyway? Stevia is that plant that they now make sweeteners with. It comes in different forms. Some of those forms are so processed that it removes the good qualities of the stevia that makes it worth using in the first place. When used in too great of quantities, it has a bitter after taste. Stivia first originated in tropical areas of South America.
So what are some of the benefits of growing your own stevia? Like any home grown veggie, by growing your own it not only saves money, but you know that what you have grown is healthy, pesticide free, and organic if that's what you do. You can use it in the less processed form which will make it all that more healthy for you.
Can you grow your own stevia? It is a tropical plant by nature, and thus would be killed of by cold winters in areas that get snow and frost. It is naturally a perennial and so it should live year to year. By planning ahead to move the plant indoors when the cold weather arives, then you can grow your own stivia. You will need a very sunny spot to put it for it to survive indoors over the winter. The best way to start growing stevia is to get a root cutting, but most of the time that might not be possible, so you can start your own from seed indoors in the late winter. Be sure to keep it under growing lights until planted outdoors as it needs plenty of light to get going. A full grown stevia plant will end up being about 24 inches high by 24 inches wide. The stevia would do well planted in a pot that drains well and is watered often. Having it planted in a pot, makes it easier to move indoors if/when the need arises.
Harvesting and Using
You can harvest around half the plant in mid summer and dry the leaves using a dehydrator or oven set to 150 degrees F or lower Or you can hang them to dry as you would other herbs. Then harvest another half again right before the first frost of the year. Store the dehydrated leaves in an air tight container until ready to use. Then you can crush or grind them up when ready to use. 3-4 Teaspoons of dried stevia will equal 1 cup of sugar in a recipe. However, it dose not have the same baking properties as sugar, so you will have to experiment with it or look up how to cook with stevia to know how to change out sugar with stevia. It is possible to make stevia extract with the stevia you have grown, but we will not cover that in this article.
If you use stevia in your cooking allot, it might be well worth it to grow your own. Please if you have any tips, or experience growing your own stevia, or using stevia, please comment and share your ideas with us!