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Grow and eat organic food at home in the Philippines

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Container Gardening Ideas for Vegetables

This is a series of the same title, with each part featuring a vegetable.

Part 6:  STEVIA 

I first tasted stevia  (Stevia rebaudiana) at the organic farmers’ festival.  It tasted sweet, and farmers just clipped the leaves off the plant when they want you to taste it.  Amazing, right?  This is coming from me who grew up in Negros Island (the Philippines) whose idea of sugar is getting the plant undergo through many processes, all the way to the sugarcane mill, until you could use it to sweeten your food and drinks.

So mainly, that’s the first beauty of stevia:  you plant it, cut off leaves, and steep it in your hot foods and drinks.  No long process, no chemicals, and instant!

And, that’s not all:  stevia is calorie-free (wow!), per the article “Effects of stevia, aspartame, and sucrose on food intake, satiety, and postprandial glucose and insulin levels” published in the US National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI.

How to plant stevia from cutting

    1.  I cut a stem (diagonally) from my existing stevia plant, with 5 nodes.Stevia cutting1
    2. I removed the leaves of the 3 bottom nodes.Stevia cutting clean1
    1. In a pot, I prepared equal parts of top soil, semi-composted saw dust, carbonized rice hull, and vermicast.  I created a hole of about 3 inches, and I watered it.  I  then inserted the cutting.Planted stevia1
    1. I covered the cutting with a recycled plastic cup.  Covered stevia1
    1. I placed the pot in the shade, under the calamansi tree.  I watered it every 1-2 days, careful not to disturb the plant.  I also let the plant breath once/twice a week.  Shaded stevia1
  1. After around a month, I placed it on full sun.  (I place my banana refuse for potassium and mulching.)

Stevia in full sun1

Readers’ inputs

  1.  Ernie (Calgary, Canada) –  This is my 2-year old stevia by my office window.  I bought a seedling (when it was on sale) last year, and it’s been indoor since then.  I used a basic potting medium, but the best medium ever for me was excess scoby from my kombucha added to the potting medium.  I placed the entire pie of scoby, and mixed it in soil.  I did it once, so far.   Scoby puts a lot of good microbes into your potting medium, better than urine.  Scoby balances the soil ph. Stevia full indoor with potting medium mixed with SCOBY

How to use stevia

    1. From Livestrong.com’s “How to Use Fresh Stevia Leaves“.  I highly recommend that you click the link, as the article has pictures, which makes it a no-brainer.
        • “Fresh leaves:  Pinch 1 to 4 leaves from the top of a branch to sweeten a cup of tea. Taking leaves from the top will encourage side growth and a bushier plant.  Steep the fresh leaves along with your tea bag in one cup of hot water.  Chew two fresh leaves to curb sugar cravings. The sweet taste will remain in your mouth for up to an hour.”
        • “Dry leaf powder:  Dry individual leaves between sheets of paper towel. When you can crumble the leaf easily, they are fully dried.  Cut whole branches from the plant. Hang the branch upside down in a dark, cool area until the leaves are dry.  Grind the dry leaves with a mortar and pestle until you have a fine powder. Use the powder to sweeten breakfast cereal, beverages or use it in baking. Dry leaves are sweeter than fresh, and one teaspoon is equal to the sweetness of 10 teaspoons of sugar.”
      • “Stevia syrup:  Boil two cups of distilled water. Add 1 tsp. of your dry leaf powder and reduce temperature to a simmer.  Simmer the mixture until it has reduced and thickened to the consistency of syrup.  Strain the syrup through a cheesecloth once it has cooled. The “Stevia Cookbook” by Ray Sahelian recommends storing the syrup in the refrigerator to increase shelf life.”
    2. From SF Gate’s “How to Use Stevia Leaves”:
        • “Use fresh stevia leaves as a sweetener in beverages, such as tea and lemonade, or in sauces. A few fresh stevia and mint leaves make a refreshing herbal tea when steeped in a cup of boiling water. Add fresh stevia leaves to beverages or foods as a sweet, edible garnish.”
        • “Use dry stevia leaves to make a powdered sweetener. Bundle and hang fresh stevia plant stems upside down in a warm, dry location until the leaves are thoroughly dry, then strip the leaves from the stems. Fill a blender, food processor or coffee grinder to half full with dry leaves and process at high speed for a few seconds. Store the powdered sweetener in an airtight container. Use the powder in recipes that call for a sweetener, but make adjustments in the amount used due to its dense sweetness. A general rule of thumb is that 2 tablespoons of stevia powder equals 1 cup of sugar.”
      • “Use dry stevia leaves to make a syrup for sweetening beverages, sauces or other syrups. Add one cup of warm water to one-quarter cup of fresh, finely crushed stevia leaves. Put the mixture in an airtight container and allow it to set for 24 hours before straining the leaves from the mixture. If desired, you can cook the strained mixture on low heat, reducing it to a more concentrated syrup. The syrup should last for several years, if kept in an airtight container in your refrigerator.”
  1. Recipes galore using stevia from Sweetleaf.com, complete with pretty pictures, ingredients, step-by-step process, and nutrition facts.  I’m posting 5 out of 163:

Where to source stevia seedlings (if no cutting is available)

You may visit the “Shop” page or in Home Organic PH “Shop” section, to know price and ordering details.

Stevia2a

Good luck, and healthy eating!

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