Friday, October 4, 2013

Stevia 101

I've had stevia growing in my herb garden for two years now and I've never been really sure what to do with it.  When you chew the leaves, it is very sweet, but drop those leaves into tea and not so much!  Making a stevia extract can be quite labor intensive so I just bought the little packets of "Stevia in the Raw" to sweeten my tea.

Until now.

I recently read an article that told how they put stevia through a 40 step process to extract the sweetness from the leaf by relying on chemicals like acetone, methanol, ethanol, acetonitrile, and isopropanol. Some of these chemicals are known carcinogens (substances that cause cancer), and none of those ingredients sound like real food,
do they?

So after a little research, I found that drying and grinding dried leaves works just fine.  There's really no need for a fancy extraction process.

I picked some fresh stevia stems from the garden and put them in the dehydrator for about 4 hours.

I placed the dried leaves in a mortar and pestal (you can also use a spice grinder) and ground them into a fine powder.  The dried leaves or powder can be stored in an airtight container.

I used about a teaspoon and a half to sweeten my tea.  The powder does not dissolve into the tea like sugar or stevia extracts, so it looks kinda weird and leaves a residue on the inside of your cup.  It does sweeten my tea nicely though, and I'm very happy using it.

Stevia is an excellent sweetener for diabetics like me because it does not raise blood glucose levels.  Stevia leaves have also been shown to help with insulin resistance, lowering blood pressure, and can help combat certain types of cancer 
(you know, like the cancers caused by using processed stevia leaves!).

And yes, I know I'm putting homegrown, organic, natural goodness into a Sonic iced tea.
Don't judge me until  you try it,


Anonymous said...

Joann! I am so glad I got back to your site. :) The children have grown so much since I last visited. I can't believe I finally found you again!!! I lost the site name!!! As you can seed it is way past the date you posted this! I am trying to catch up!!! :-) Please let me know the trick to growing stevia..!! I live in S. Calif. I have tried it growing it with plants 4 times. The plants have two stems when I get them and they never get any or side branches.. :( They just grow straight up like 36" and then dye out after several months! Please help. I have looked on the net and have not found any helpful information for my questions. Am I supposed to cut them back at some point to get them bushier? Each year I have cut back one of the stems and that stem usually dies. :( Do you grow yours from plants? I read that every three years you need to make a stem cutting and start new ones. They produce best the first three years. I use the little I get but that is a terribly small amount for the price of a plant at $2.98. We get Hot here too. Do you grow yours in full sun...out of the wind. ?? I read they do not like wind. No one I know grows it. I hope to grow comfrey too soon and also start some Jerusalem Artichokes again too. God gave us such a variety of plants to eat didn't He !!! :-) Sarah

JoAnnC. said...

Hey there! I got my stevia from the nursery and also have grown it from seed. I have never done cuttings of it so I'm not sure what to do. I have my plants in full sun with heavy hay mulch. They just come back year after year. Check your local nurseries this summer, I've found 2-3 different varities here locally. Good to hear from you again!!!

Anonymous said...

Sorry to ask again about the stevia but I am still wondering... :) When you buy the plants are they just like two thin stems? Ours here seem to be. You do not ever cut them back or tip prune or anything to make them bushier? When your plants are a year or so old do they look like short busy bushes? Will they withstand some cold. Seldom freezes her. The picture does not really show a long view. How many years have you grown the same plants? As I said I read that three years is the best time and from there they go down hill and do not produce as much. but then a lllll I know is what I have read..not ever having it grow well for me. :-) I didn't know there are several varieties. could you tell me the seed companies you order from? Also who has stevia seed? With me living in S. Calif I think we could use the same seed here. I use Baker Creek. Any others? I like non GMO seeds whenever possible. I can't believe you responded sooooo very fast. Your life sounds very very busy!! Thank you so very much. It is so warming to know there are other women out there who feel as we do. Sarah

JoAnnC. said...

Plant from the nursery and from seed were are fairly bushy but did have quite a few long stems in them. I just cut them off and use them and more grows. My plant that regrows is about three years old now. When most of it dies back from the cooler weather, I chop it off to about an inch above the ground and mulch it heavily with hay. It starts growing again in the summer.
I get seeds from Baker Creek and Richters. Richters has several different varieties, and you can get plants as well as seeds from them.