The Home-Gardener’s Sweetener – STEVIA!

by Texas Homesteader ~

Several years ago our daughter mentioned casually that she was growing Stevia. Wait, Stevia? You mean, the sweetener? You can GROW THAT!!?? I had no idea!

Excitedly I sat out to find a place to purchase the plant. I found it at a local discount warehouse-type store and brought it home. I plunked it into my landscaping bed as part of my edible landscape. It’s a pretty enough plant, so why not?

I’ve had this plant for a couple of years and it always comes back in the spring. But now that I’m growing my own zero-calorie sweetener, what should I do with it?

Stevia is a plant you can grow in your edible landscape. Harvest the leaves to make your very own home-grown sweetener. #TexasHomesteader

It’s said that Stevia powder is 200x sweeter than sugar. So 3-4 teaspoons Stevia powder equals about a cup of sugar. Wow!

I’ve tried to use my home-grown Stevia in various ways in the kitchen, drying & sprinkling onto food & such. I’m still experimenting with ways that work best for our purposes. But to me it’s SO sweet that it’s often overpowering and can be a little bitter. So my use of it is very straightforward. More on that later…

In researching I’ve found others who have some interesting and very easy-sounding ways to preserve this home-grown sweetener.

Dried Stevia

I’ve read that Stevia is sweetest when it’s cool outside. So harvest early in the morning after the dew has dried. Then wash & dry stems and remove the leaves.

Dry the leaves on a screen for 8-12 hours. Then powder in a coffee grinder. Remember to use sparingly – Stevia is very sweet and can be bitter if you use too much!

Stevia Extract

Other folks like to make an extract. According to Prairie Homestead  you just fill jar with chopped fresh Stevia leaves & top leaves with vodka.  Shake & allow to steep for 48 hours

Then you remove leaves & place the liquid in a pan.  You’ll want to gently heat it for 20 minutes, but do not boil. This step is said to remove the alcohol. Now you can store your Stevia extract in refrigerator for a few months.

Liquid Stevia

Here’s an even easier way I’ve read about to use your Stevia plant – liquid Stevia. I watched a video from Whole Lifestyle Nutrition  about making liquid Stevia.

You just measure 1/4 cup Stevia powder and add 1 cup warm filtered water, shaking thoroughly. Then you let it sit out 24 hours to allow it to infuse. Then it needs to be stored in the refrigerator, I’m guessing it’ll last several weeks?

How I use Stevia: Sweet Tea

But I’ve never utilized any of these methods for using my Stevia. My use is much more straightforward!

You see, RancherMan likes his tea sweet, and that usually involves adding copious amounts of granulated sugar. But now I use my own Stevia plant to provide sugar-free sweetness for him instead.

When I’m making sun tea I simply harvest about four to five 8-10″ stems of Stevia. I bring them inside, give them a quick rinse and then strip the leaves from the stems.  I’ll roll them tightly between my palms to crush the leaves and then toss them into my sun tea jar along with my tea bag.

Sweet tea - sun tea. Stevia is a plant you can grow in your edible landscape. Harvest the leaves to make your very own home-grown sweetener. #TexasHomesteader

Then I place that jar outside in the sun to brew into a delightful refreshing sweet-tea beverage. I drink my tea unsweetened so I can’t speak for its sweetness. But RancherMan says it’s perfect!

Stevia Safety

If you ever have a question where you need honest-to-goodness real information (not documentary-type opinion stories that shouldn’t be taken as factual) – check with your extension agent!

Our local extension agent is an absolute dream. I asked her about Stevia safety & she sent me a few authority sites. I used them to do my own research, and found the Stevia Wikipedia information interesting as well. But in researching there are a couple of things to note:

FDA Information. Looks like they have an ‘important alert‘ on leaf Stevia. Not really its safety per se, but how this zero-calorie sweetener affects your sweet-food appetite. I’m seeing that just like other zero-calorie sweeteners, it’s possible that it actually makes you crave MORE sugar if you consume enough of it. I’m not worried about the small amount in RancherMan’s iced tea. But just fyi –> FDA Information On High-Intensity Sweeteners

Effects On Health Conditions – And this is a very informative piece about Stevia and its possible effects on certain health conditions –> https://www.livescience.com/39601-stevia-facts-safety.html

When In Doubt, Check With Your Doctor

All-in-all I think it’s important educate ourselves before taking the leap into something new, whether it’s a new exercise regime or a new diet. If there are any concerns about anything you eat, your doctor is always your best source of counsel!

But for RancherMan & me, this Stevia has been able to replace some table sugar that we have to purchase. And it’s zero calorie to boot!

Growing my own sweetener? Well I think that’s pretty sweet!

~TxH~

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References:

Wikipedia

FDA Study On High-Intensity Sweeteners

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