ZEST ZEAL ZACH
Stevia; the simple, pure and healthy sweetener that is finally being recognized for its value. We finally have an alternative for a sweetener in dry-form that is actually healthy to consume. What is even more interesting is that you can actually grow this plant in your own backyard!
Learn: Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) is a part of the Asteraceae family which is related to daisies and ragweeds. The plant has been used for more than 1,500 years throughout South America, but was not introduced to the United States until the 1980s. Prior to its introduction to the US, Japan had been using it for almost a decade prior. Due to its relative newness within the culinary world, many countries, including the United States, are still performing more detailed research on the plant to locate its exact health benefits and other effects upon the body. Japan is by far the leading consumer of Stevia, but the United States has widely adopted the sugar sweetener as well, and its popularity is growing.
Nourish: Stevia is an excellent sugar substitute extracted from the leaves of the plant. The chemicals called steviosides existent in Stevia exert a negligible effect on blood glucose levels, thus making it so important for people with special dietary needs, especially diabetics. One of the greatest perks of using Stevia is that it has 0 calories and it has been recorded as being almost 200 times sweeter than sugar in equal concentrations. Other studies have postulated that stevia might have extra health benefits as well in regards to from hypertension to cancer. The taste rendered from the plant not only lasts longer, but takes more time to register than that of conventional sugar/sweeteners. Even more intriguing is the fact that some of its extracts have an eclectic taste similar to that of licorice when consumed at high concentrations. Talk about versatility!
Grow: More difficult via seed, but easy via a start. Stevia has recently begun to show up in nurseries as often as countertops. Once purchased, the plant will do best in rich and porous soil. It is suggested that you add a small layer of compost around the plant for extra nutrients. Another thing to take into consideration is that of cold spells during root setting and establishment. Stevia prefers slightly drier soil and requires more warmth during development. (So plant in spring and let it establish during summer). To harvest the leaves one should wait until autumn or as late as possible. The reason for this being is that the shorter, chillier days supposedly intensify the sweetness of the plant. For annual cultivation you will want to live in a place that does not drop below the upper 30s. Aside from that, it is a great plant for indoors or outdoors. Try it out today!