So often I go back to the beginning of our a story, being a single mom on food stamps. Having a dream, thinking that there was no way we could ever get remotely close, thinking it was merely a pipe dream. Of course it is still in the dream phase, but it’s growing, expanding.
Our subject today is about part of that expansion. Tomorrow, oh tomorrow… Tomorrow is my thirtieth birthday, after everything that happened to me in the past I don’t like to celebrate birthdays, birthdays have served as a reminder to me since leaving of all the things that I had received from people and had stolen from me. But, being my birthday my mother and I were talking about what I wanted for m birthday, and I told her that I would like some Stevia plants.
Stevia may look like standard green herb like the rest, remarkably though this green leafed wonder tastes beautifully and sweet. Stevia is hitting high notes not only with gardeners, but also with diabetics and people dieting.
Stevia can live for one season in colder regions, in warmer areas like zone 8, the plants can over winter with a heavy layer of mulch. Zone 9 and warmer stevia can grow year round. The best part is that 3 – 5 stevia plants can grow a years worth of sweetener!
Stevia grows best in well drained soil with 18 inches of room, it can get up to 1 – 3 feet in height as well depending on the length of your growing season which we have discussed in past post that it can be lengthened through use of floating row cover, and or frost cloth to prevent the plants from dying off immediately. Grooming your stevia plant throughout the season will help to bulk up your stevia plant and keep flowering and seeding off a little longer.
Prior to the plant blooming during the cooling of fall the stevia plants leaves become the sweetest, making this the ideal time to harvest your stevia. Preserving stevia is an easy process as well. Cut stevia at the stems, and then strip the leaves and tender stem tips. You can then leave them outside on a piece of fabric on a dry sunny day for one day. You can also use a food dehydrator to dry out the leaves. Once your leaves are dry you can put them into a Ziploc bag and crush them by hand. You can also use a food processor to powder them up. This is a great option because the powder, or crushed leaves themselves while releasing their wonderful sweetness will not dissolve.
Approximately 1/8 of a teaspoon of dried stevia is equal to the sweetness of 1 teaspoon of sugar. While stevia has great sweetening strength even in some baked goods, remember that won’t substitute well in all things.
Bringing stevia to the homestead for me is our next level of homesteading. The reason that we began this journey was all about being able to provide. It lead to providing for others, and this year is all about being able to provide for the year, this stevia is part of that. Now we have the ability to grow and process our own sweetener right here on the homestead.