Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) is the new trendy sweetener (sugar substitute) made from a real plant.
In the US, the plant is not approved for food use, however the plant is approved for use in many countries around the world. What is approved in the US (and the mechanism patented) is the extract of the sweetener. Unfortunately, this extract is often mixed with fillers such as maltodextrin, dextrose and erythritol.
There are several versions of the extract that are not mixed with these fillers such as
- Stevia in the Raw
- Sweet Leaf
The most unprocessed version is, of course, growing it yourself. But before we get to that, some facts about Stevia:
- Used in South America for centuries, particularly by the indigenous population
- Thirty times sweeter than sugar
- Zero calories
What is required for growing Stevia?
- easy maintenance
- best bought as a plant rather than seeds. I bought mine at Lowe’s.
- my plant gets only about 4 hours of sun and the plant is doing great
- I cut it back every 3-4 weeks and dry the leaves
Overwintering is the most difficult part of having a stevia patch. For most of us that have freezing temperatures, we need to cut back the plant in the fall and overwinter it indoors. Not much growth will happen during this time, the main idea is just to keep the plant alive till the next spring. If the plant looks like it died, do not despair, just keep it around till the spring, it will likely revive itself.
My plants are spread between two pots and provide plenty of sweetener.
This is after my 3rd cutting for the year at the end of July.
Plenty of leaves for some culinary uses
How to propagate Stevia?
This is actually also not too hard:
- select some strong looking cuttings
- trim off the bottom leaves (this is the part that will be underground)
- cut off the tips (this will increase the growth hormone, similar to cutting back the plant)
- put into rooting medium.
As far as the rooting medium
- water alone did not work for me… no roots developed
- soil did not work, plant rotted away
- vermiculite did the trick!
You could use rooting hormones. I did not use any, but it did take 3-4 weeks for them to root. With rooting hormones, it would likely be faster.
Keep them inside or in a shady place if the outside temperatures are not too high
This is all you need.
For the cuttings, take off the bottom leaves, cut off the tips and they are ready
To keep the humidity high, you could cover with a clear plastic container or sandwich bag.
In about 3-4 weeks, little roots should grow and they will be ready to transplant.
Here is a video of the process