Grow Your Own: Stevia

8:12 PM

When I think of the good qualities of a sweetener what comes to mind is: cheap, delicious, natural, low calorie, non-cavity-promoting and, well, sweet. Stevia is all of these things and more. It's a bushy green plant you can grow yourself and when the leaves are dried they are incredibly sweet like sugar. They make a great addition to tea, lemonade, even baking. Everyone should grow it. Here's how.

Obtain stevia seeds - I've seen them at most hardware/camping stores.

Start them indoors if you plan to start your season before frost. If it's already, say, mid-May then you can direct sow. Keep your seeds a good 10 inches apart because it spreads. It can also grow high, over a foot at least, so consider trellising.

Water, but don't over water. Stevia's roots grow shallow so they'll need a shower often but too much water will be worse than not enough. It also doesn't need much nitrogen in the soil so don't grow it around beans or peas, and don't throw old coffee grounds near them, but do add compost to the soil. Compost is a gardener's best friend.

When tiny leaves have formed, hand pick them and keep them in a metal tin to dry. They can then be ground further into a powder and used to sweeten just about anything.

For sweetening 2 Tbsp of ground stevia = 1 cup of sugar but of course if you're baking your wet/dry ingredient ratio will have to be played with a little, as with your oven's temperature.
In an old family-sized pickle jar add 2 teabags, a few lemons, sliced, and a dash of stevia leaves. Fill with water to the top and leave in the sun. Nothing is better.

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