Stevia: A Natural Sweetner

Stevia is a natural sweetener that Organic Gardner’s will find to be a great addition. Though nontoxic, Stevia plants have been found to have Insect repelling tendencies.  The sweetness may be in fact a kind of defense against aphids  and other bugs that find it to be not so tasty treat.  

Growing Stevia from a seed is rather difficult so the best way is to buy “garden ready” plants. Growing Stevia in the correct temperature is extremely important.  When planting Stevia you must wait until the danger of frost is past and soil is in the 50’s or 60’s before transplanting in your garden. 

When beginning to plant Stevia always leave no less than 18 to 20 inches apart from one another. Plants should grow between 24 to 30 inches in height.  You can also Plant Stevia in Pots. 

Stevia does as well in rich, loamy soil. Which is exactly the same kind as common garden-variety plants do also. Besides being sensitive to cold weather making sure they have proper drainage is crucial. Over watering can hurt the roots. So make sure the plant isn’t in an area that gets soggy or can be easily flooded. 

During summer months you should use a mulch around each plant. This will help the shallow feeder roots from drying out. 

Harvesting your Stevia should be prolonged as long as possible. Cooler temperatures and shorter days make for sweeter plants. so the longer you can keep them in the ground the better. Covering plants during early frost months can be beneficial for a sweeter plant.

When it is time to Harvest your plant cut the branches off with pruning shears before you begin stripping the leaves.  Once you have collected all the leaves off of the branches you will need to dry them. You can do this by using a screen or a net. You can also use a Home dehydrator. However, placing Stevia under direct sun for 12 hours is the preferred method on an autumn day. Crushing the dried leaves of the Stevia plant is the final step in retrieving the Stevia’s sweetening powder. (Stevia Can also be used a sweetener even if Not dried) The Leaves when green and just picked are still very sweet.  

stevia-common

 

 Drying Stevia