Stevia -- The Sweet Success
If you have sweet tooth but abhor the many disadvantages of too much sugar in the body, then this herb is perfect for you. Stevia is sweeter than sucrose by 300 times and sweeter than sugar by 150 times. Amazingly, although sweet, Stevia will not bring your blood sugar up. So yeah, this wonderful culinary herb is great for people with diabetes. Another interesting fact is that Stevia has zero calories.
Stevia is a native of South America, mostly in Paraguay and Brazil but cultivated from Florida to Southern Canada. Stevia is popular due to its extract with 80% to 90% of the stevioside. Its single leaf can generate at least 12% of extract. Today, Stevia is widely used in pastries and other baking goods as powder or in liquid form. It can also be used as sweeteners and as a substitute for sugarcane and sorghum. Stevia is also mainly used for tea. If you're wondering, the tea from Stevia herb is refreshingly sweet and tasty.
Stevia can be grown annually, but wild Stevia can be grown perennially. Frankly, although it can easily adapt to changes in the climate, starting out with Stevia can be really challenging, and it is probably not for beginners to try. Stevia thrives more indoors than outdoors. Germinating them from seeds may give you different results, so it's best to buy a germinated plant from the local nursery garden for easy cultivation. Just a heads up, finding one can also be tricky. As most people find it really difficult to cultivate Stevia from a germinated plant, another way to grow Stevia is by cuttings.
However, let's talk about some good tips on how to grow healthy Stevia using the trickiest way from seeds:
- Sow the seeds in a shallow dish/ planting tray 8 weeks before the last frost comes. Growing Stevia indoors can be great as one can grow it in any climate. Stevia will thrive better in warm climates and direct sunlight. A sweeter Stevia is due to the more hours of full sun.
- The soil needs to be well-drained and sandy soil mostly preferred by Stevia. Regular watering is needed to keep the soil moist. However, be careful not to overdo it or root rotting may occur.
- Space the seeds at least 8 inches apart, then you may transfer the plants later on with final spacing of about 20 to 24 inches apart. Once matured, Stevia can grow up to 30 inches in height and can be as wide as 20 to 24 inches in rows.
- Stevia needs full sun for optimum development. It will take up to four months before the plants can be harvested.
It is best to harvest Stevia during the end of autumn. Cut the branches that you need using pruning shears. You may also add the stems for added extract. Once the flowers bloom, leaves will cease to grow. There is no need to pinch out the flowers as this will do nothing.
Stevia is great as an insect repellent. The fragrance and the sweetness can repulse bugs, bees and butterflies.