We’re Growing Stevia!

I decided to try growing Stevia in my garden this year.  My husband has been using the supermarket’s version of the stevia plant in his coffee.  However, from what I have read, what you find at most supermarkets isn’t pure stevia, but is mixed with other chemicals and/or sugars. So I decided to do some research.

Sure enough, this label (to the right) said:stevia packet

INGREDENTS:  Dextrose, Reb A (Stevia Extract), Cellulose Powder, Natural Flavors.

Knowing that ingredients must be put on the label in descending order of amounts, Dextrose is the predominant ingredient – not Stevia!  Dextrose is a simple sugar that breaks down into glucose in the body.  Wait, SUGAR?  Yep. That’s the <1g.

But wait, there’s more (bad news)!  The next ingredient Reb A (Stevia Extract) is apparently also suspect!  According to the patent application Coca-Cola used to obtain approval to use Reb A in their products (see here) they use a very un-natural process for purifying the stevia leaf that includes the use of acetone, ethanol (what you put in your gas tank) and isopropanol (rubbing alcohol).           Seriously???!!!!!

The third ingredient is Cellulose Powder.  Pretty safe, right?  According to wikipedia, cellulose powder is  “An insoluble dietary fiber that is a tasteless, odorless & colorless powder produced from naturally occurring components of plants.”  Basically it is just a filler so you feel like you are getting more than you really are. Okay, but what kind of plant does it come from?  It’s hard to know where the producer of any commercial product gets it’s powdered cellulose (trade secrets?).  Traditionally, powdered cellulose has come from wood, but lately the trend has been to make the cellulose powder from cornstalks.  Unfortunately, according to Margie Kelly of the Huffington Post (see article here), “Corn is the No. 1 crop grown in the U.S. and nearly all of it — 88 percent — is genetically modified.”                         Oh no – GMO!  keurig and cup - stevia story

And who knows what is in those “natural flavors”!   Wow, I wish I had read (and understood) the label before I bought this for hubby’s coffee!

Well – since one of our self-sufficient goals is to be able to grow our own food organically with heirloom, non-GMO seeds, I figure we should find a way to sweeten what we eat in a natural way. We are going to have two bee hives next spring for honey, and according to Lisa Lynn of The Self Sufficient HomeAcre and The Prepper Project (see post here) I can grow sugar beets and make my own grannulated sugar.  But I wanted another alternative – thus the Stevia.

I bought my seeds from The Peaceful Valley Nursery in Nevada City on the day that we picked up our new almond and walnut trees.  Everything I have read said that germinating the seeds may not be the easiest task, but I didn’t have any trouble getting two out of the three seeds planted to germinate.  After a couple of weeks I transplanted the two seedlings out into the garden.

At this time they seem to be growing very   s    l    o    w    l    y…..

This is one of my two stevia plants.  Not growing so fast, but growing nonetheless!

This is one of my two stevia plants. Not growing so fast, but growing nonetheless!

But, they are growing, afterall.  I think the squash may be shading it too much, so I am going to pull back the squash later today. In the meantime I have been researching ways to extract the sweetness from the plant.  I have found several blogs with different extraction methods and I hope to be able to try a few of them.The first website I found that had step by step instructions on extracting the sweetness from the Stevia leaves was Food Renegade.  The instructions on this site use Vodka 😉 to get a sweeter result than just plain water.  On another website – Cheap Vegetable Gardener – the article shows how to make stevia powder.  Basically, all you do is dry the leaves then pulverize them in a blender or coffee grinder!  Sounds simple enough!

But then, how do I use it?   Well, I found a handy, dandy chart someone gave me when they heard I was growing stevia (sorry, I don’t know who to give Kudos to):

Stevia is available in powder form or liquid form. Here is a basic conversion chart:
Sugar ———— Powdered Stevia————- Liquid Stevia
1 cup————–1 teaspoon——————-1 teaspoon
1 tablespoon——-1/4 teaspoon—————–6 – 9 drops
1 teaspoon———1/16 teaspoon—————-2- 4 drops

Okay, but I’ve heard that it can be tricky to cook with and I wondered if there were any recipes to use this stuff.  Yup.  A general internet search will bring up hundreds of recipes.  One place to start is the website Food.com.  They have almost 500 recipes that use both the liquid and powdered form of stevia.

Hooray!   Between the honey, stevia and possibly a little beet sugar, I should never have to buy sugar again!  That makes me feel self sufficient and frugal at the same time! 🙂

Now, if I can just get my plants to grow faster!  Any suggestions?

Shared at:  Pinworthy Projects Party #67; Simply Natural Saturdays; Strutt Your Stuff Saturdays; Say It Saturday; Farm Girl Friday; Nifty Thrifty Sunday; Garden Tuesday; Common Sense Preparedness

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17 thoughts on “We’re Growing Stevia!

    • Sure! Do you want to try the liquid stevia extracted with vodka!! 😉 We need to get together and have a baking party with stevia – see what works and what doesn’t! Thanks – Vickie

  1. I’ve also recently discovered the problem with these “hidden” ingredients. Besides cellulose sometimes being from GMO corn, dextrose is also usually made form GMO corn. I use a stevia powder from Trader Joe’s that has nothing but pure organic stevia in it, but it’s interesting that you are growing it. I will be interested in how you extract it and if you think it works well.

    • I will have to go to Trader Joe’s until I can make my own extract! Thanks for the tip! Isn’t it amazing how much hidden truth is on some of these labels! Shameful! Thanks for stopping by and for your comment!

    • I know – the more research I did the more disappointed I became with the commercial stevia products. I guess it’s just like most other foods – if you want to know what’s in it you have to grow it or make it yourself! Thanks for visiting and leaving the comment – Vickie

  2. I use a lot of stevia so I need to grow my own too! Thanks for the good information. I bought some individual stevia packets a while ago and it wasn’t until after I put one in my tea and had a allergic reaction that I noticed they had agave and some other interesting ingredients!! I know better than to buy something without looking at the label!

    • That’s too bad about your allergic reaction, but you would think the packets would be better labeled! If it says stevia, then it should only be stevia and not a blend! Thanks for stopping by, queen of the red double wide!

  3. I am glad to know all this. I use Stevia at times and would love to grow my own. Now I also know how to use it directly from my garden! Thanks for linking with me 🙂

    • Thanks Connie. I’m sure that once Stevia gets more popular and more people grow it, there will be more recipes using it along with better conversions and ways to extract the sweetness. I am going to do some more research and see if I can use stevia in canning jams and jellies. Thanks for stopping by and for your comment! I will return to your website soon! Vickie

      • Being diabetic, I use stevia in everything I make and have had to learn to adjust my recipes to use it as well. I have had trouble with the jams not turning out right with stevia, so I would be very interested in your results.
        As for the crazy ingredients… that comes with any corporate food these days. It’s just shameful how corrupted our govt. has allowed our food system to become. I have been using the Trader Joes pure stevia for years now and I love it! I was very happy to learn that I had made the right choice when all the other “stevia” products were revealed to be a bunch of poison!

    • Oooooo – thanks Barbara! Those two links are great! I welcome any and all information I can get because it makes trying out new things easier! I think I am going to be harvesting some of my stevia next week and try a simple recipe of smashing it into some lemon juice, then adding water to make a no sugar lemonade. We will see how this turns out! Thanks for stopping by to read my blog and leaving a comment – I love to hear from my readers!

    • Thanks, Susan! I checked out the website store and it is awesome! Good luck with growing your stevia. The only advise I could give right now is make sure your plants get full sun. Mine got shaded by some very eager squash plants and grew very slowly for the first few months. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. I love your blog! We’re hoping to include Stevia in our garden this spring, and avoid high price and bad ingredients. I’d like to make our own to avoid possible impurities too, since food supplements do not have to undergo testing. I can hardly wait to actually sweeten! something with something I’ve grown. How did your lemonade turn out?

    • The lemonade tastes good, but not exactly like the one you would buy at the store. I’m not saying it’s an acquired taste, but it is just a “different” taste – a bit more green, if you will, but good! One thing I think is important to remember is that a little goes a long way. We are all so used to putting a cup of sugar into a pitcher of lemonade, but you only need about a teaspoon of the stevia for the same sweetness. Also, each batch you make will have just a different level of sweetness, so you end up having to experiment a bit with each new batch you make. It isn’t a drastic difference, but you will notice that, say, in a cup of coffee the last batch only needed 3 drops, but the next batch requires 5 drops. Because of this, I now make bigger batches, and if the first batch hasn’t been used up before the second batch is ready, I will mix the two. It takes a bit of experimentation, but when you google for “recipes using stevia” it’s amazing how many you will find and knowing the level of “sweetness” of your batch of stevia, you can tweak the recipes! Let me know how yours turns out!!!