“Good night, sweet prince” (Forgive me, I love Shakespeare.)
What I am referring to is the death of my stevia plant. I killed him. On purpose.
Why? Because for it to survive, he must live inside my house, as he did last winter, and that’s not going to happen this year. Why? Well, for one reason, we are in the early stages of selling our home in the valley so we can move up to our future homestead and build our new house. (It’s about time!!) The garden where the stevia was planted (before I potted it up last winter) has long since been turned back into lawn – which according to our real estate agent is what most potential buyers want to see. So, my poor sweet prince has had to live in his pot on my front porch. 🙁
But more importantly, I don’t want to have the stevia in the house because last winter he became infested with an itty bitty critter called scale. I’m not sure where the scale came from, and though I think I finally got rid of that pesky pest, but I don’t want to chance infecting my other house plants, either here or up on our future homestead.
He served me well. Very well. ” And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!”
Well, don’t be silly. I know plants don’t go to heaven. But I will tell you, this plant was heavenly! Next spring I hope to start at least four stevia plants, and I will use what I have learned about growing this plant so my future sweet leaf plants thrive as well as, or even better! What did I learn?
First – they like water, but don’t like wet feet. In other words, keep their soil moist but not wet.
Second – they love sunshine – sort of. When my stevia seedlings were first planted in the spring, they actually did quite well. That is until the zucchini horned in on their space and shut out their direct sunlight! Once I pulled out the zucchini (it got squash mosaic virus), the stevia started growing like wildfire! Well, not really like wildfire, but certainly faster than it did when it was partially shaded by the big bad zucchini! Of course, that was in the spring. Once the hot days of summer set in, the stevia seemed to suffer a bit in the strong sunlight! I think they would have done better with a bit more afternoon shade. Lessons learned.
Third – humans aren’t the only critters who like the stevia leaves. I don’t know if bugs can taste sweetness (I am sure they can’t), but it seemed like every aphid, white fly and eventually scale wanted to munch on my stevia. The white fly and aphids were easy enough to control with a spray made of water and just a drop of olive oil steeped in rosemary. The scale seemed a bit more resistant. I discovered, however, if I examined the plant every day and scraped off each scale as I found it, then continued to spray on my organic pest concoction, the scale was at least controlled (I haven’t seen an adult scale in about three months now) or completely eradicated!
Since I knew I wasn’t taking the stevia with me up to the future homestead and I couldn’t bring her into the house, I decided to harvest the last of her sweet leaves. The simplest way to preserve the leaves is to just dry them in open air out of direct sunlight. They dry to crunchy status within a day or two. Store them in a jar or some other air-tight container and they can be used for at least a year.
How to I use my dried stevia leaves? I drop some crushed leaves into my herbal teas. The heat from the water produces a lovely, natural sweetness. Or, soak in very warm water for about 15-30 minutes (until soft and pliable and cooled off), crushing leaves against the side of the container every 5 minutes or so, then strain water into a pitcher of a cool beverage that you want to sweeten. Lemon balm and stevia is refreshing on a hot summer day!
I have also made a tincture with stevia, which works great. See this post HERE.
As I throw the stevia carcass on the compost pile, I can only dream of next year’s crop. I hope to be able to keep the new plants in the ground year-round, but we’ll see if that’s possible on the future homestead. Being a semi-tropical plant, stevia does not like frost, and freezing temperatures are a death sentence. However, with careful tenting and heavy mulching, I am hopeful.
Do you have a stevia plant? If you do, do you leave it in the ground for the winter or pot it up and bring it inside? Also, do you have any special recipes you use your stevia in? If you do, please share your recipe in the comments below, or add your post url containing the recipe!
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