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.
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!
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…..
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?