Why & How to Grow SteviaAugust 15, 2014
One of the most common questions I get from grow-your-own foodies who want to cut back on high carb sweets is “Can you tell me how to grow stevia and use it in my kitchen?” I’m pretty sure I’ve gotten this question every time I’ve given a Gardening Against Diabetes seminar or interview. So, here goes…
My response to these questions: Yes I can tell you how to grow it, and I’ve been developing a number of recipes (see links at the end) that use fresh stevia rather than the processed drops or powders that are readily available at most grocery stores today. I do use the powder and the drops on occasion, but as you’d expect, I’d rather grow my own and teach you how to do the same.
Many of you already know that this simple plant offers a sweetness about a bazillion times sweeter than sugar or honey, and stevia’s sweetness is known to barely (if at all) affect blood sugar. (Okay, so “bazillion” isn’t perfect math, but you get the picture. Lots of sweet, from a plant leaf you can grow, and the sweetness isn’t likely to mess with your blood sugar.) And those benefits are just a few reasons you’d want this little plant in your garden.
How to grow stevia in your garden…
Stevia rebaudiana performs well as a seasonal annual herb in many gardening locations. (In other words, it’ll die come winter’s first frost.) But, during the warm days of summer, this plant will put on green growth like mad. It’s easy to grow in a container or to mix into garden beds. If you aren’t diligent about harvesting regularly (see below), it can put on a display of tiny white flowers that attract pollinators. Stevia’s sweet leaves are bright green with scalloped edges and a soft, fuzzy texture. Mixed with other plants, its texture adds lovely interest and form to mixed borders and decorative planters.
If you wish to grow stevia from seed, sow your seeds early indoors around the time you sow the first of your basil. Thin seedlings to give plants room to mature, and set them outdoors (after hardening them off) once the weather is consistently warm enough to support tomatoes and like plantings.
Of course, there’s no shame in picking up a start at your local nursery. Heck, that’s what I tend to do. I hit the herb aisles at my favorite small nurseries in late spring to pick up an inexpensive 4″ pot that they’ve already cultivated for me. Then, I replant it into at least a 1 gallon size pot, which I can keep going easily in the greenhouse all summer. And/or, I plant it into a mixed edible border that will get watered and harvested regularly throughout the summer.
It’s as easy as that. Super simple plant.
How to harvest stevia from your garden…
I treat stevia a lot like a I treat basil. The more you pick it, and pick it from the right places, the more the plant will produce. Here’s how:
Now that you know how to grow stevia and how to harvest it, read on for some sweet food and drink recipes that call for this delicious, fresh herb. We’ll be adding preserving info soon too.
Check back on August 22nd for a Don’t miss our delicious Strawberry Chocolate Rocket dairy-free frozen novelty recipe using fresh stevia and berries from your garden. We can’t stop eating these! For now, give these recipes a whirl and let us know what you think, please.
**Disclosure: Garden Mentors® is a paid contributor to Fiskars. The snips shown above may have been provided by Fiskars to Garden Mentors® for review purposes. No compensation was paid by Fiskars for this article or images.
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