Saturday, December 22, 2012

A sweet alternative-grow your own

Baby stevia plant

Sunday, December 22, 2012

Want an all natural, zero calorie, zero glycemic index sweetener?  You can grow your own!  It is an herb called Stevia.  Stevia is 30-45 times sweeter than sugar.

It is from the sunflower family and a native of South America, Central America, and Mexico, with some found as far north as Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

In our zone 6, stevia will not survive outside during the winter, but can easily be brought indoors for the winter.  I keep mine in the garage and it is happy there.
Potted stevia

You can easily grow from seed or buy at your neighborhood nursery.  Just about any big box store carries this high antioxidant plant.

The trick to using stevia is to use it judiciously; too much will leave a bitter taste.  I bought a cookbook that shares many recipes for using stevia, called “Stevia: Naturally Sweet Recipes for Desserts, Drinks and More.”  Of course, you can always just look up the recipes on line.

It is easy to dry.  Just cut back to about a third its size when it begins to get lanky.  Place the stems loosely in a paper bag in a dry, dark area and allow to dry.  Just remove the leaves and crush to a powder.  Store in any airtight container.

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