22 August 2009

Harvesting and storing Stevia

Ian and Luis have just reminded me that I haven't mentioned in my Stevia posts how to save the leaves for winter use. Stevia leaves can be used fresh, or dried and saved like any other herb such as one of my favourite teas Lemon Verbena (in French Verveine citronnelle).

To harvest Stevia, you can simply cut the complete branch and hang it up upside down somewhere dry and airy and within a week or so the leaves will be ready to take off the plant.

Pinching out SteviaI find that method a bit messy because the leaves can get dusty and hanging herbs seem to be favourite spots for spiders to spin their webs, so I prefer to cut off a small branch now and then and remove the leaves one by one at their base with my fingernails.

Pinching out the plant in the growing season will make it bushier as two new shoots will develop at each side of the growing point. You can then use the rest of the stalk to make a cutting to pass on to someone else. Towards the end of the growing season cut down the whole plant in the same way to prepare it for overwintering.

Dryin SteviaOnce you've a small batch of leaves, put them into an open paper bag and hang the bag up in a basket somewhere dry and airy. From time to time - about every three or four days to begin with - shake and tumble the leaves to make sure that they're drying evenly. If you've forgotten all about it and the leaves show any signs of going mouldy, throw them away.

When the leaves are completely dry they'll be crisp and can easily be crushed by hand or ground into a fine green powder. You can use a fine mesh sieve to separate the leaf stalks if you prefer. Once you're Stevia's ready it can be stored in small airtight jars. Be careful not to use too much - a tiny pinch of the powder goes a very long way !

Taking cuttings, growing, harvesting and saving Stevia isn't complicated in small quantities and for a household, just one well-grown pot plant contains a huge quantity of sweetener. It's no wonder then, that the sugar industry with their "Roundup ready" Sugar Beet and "Almost Roundup Ready" Cane sugar is nervous about the "safety" of Stevia - despite the fact that the controversial sweetener Aspartume seems perfectly acceptable for licensing as a food additive.

Lots of different kinds of food taste good naturally and there's no real need to add anything - but a fresh tomato with a bit of salt or new potatoes with freshly ground black pepper are real treats and adding some honey or Stevia to a cake or a rhubarb tart is a delightful ways of using nature's bounty to the full.

8 comments:

MrsL said...

That's a useful post, thanks for that. I might give that one a go.
Thanks.

MrsL

xx

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thanks for sharing.

Yvonne Perry said...

Thank you so much for this information. It is just what I've been looking for. I picked a stem of stevia from my herb garden today and started rooting it in a bottle of water so I can share it with my adult kids who are health conscious.

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Jeanette said...

This is my first time growing Stevia and I did not know that I needed to pinch pinch the main stem. As a result, the two stems on each plant is close to 3 feet tall!! I plan. The base is very strong, however, so I plan on cutting it back and overwintering it. Wish me luck!!

Mom Vazquez said...

Thank you so much for this article..I have researched this topic and yours is the most comprehensive and helpful. I have a stevia plant that is about four feet tall and just loaded with leaves and flowers.
I have new plants growing in potting soil and am now going to try cuttings in water.
Thanks so much!

Tickie said...

Thank you. I wasn't sure when/how to harvest my 4' stevia plants. Now I will pinch out the seed heads that are forming & let it bush out.

christine wren said...

Hi from sub-tropical Australia! Thanks for all the info. A friend gave us a Stevis plant yesterday. We are in late summer now here in almost February so now I know what to do with my plant. Merci beaucoup and beaucoup de blessings.

Anonymous said...

I am apprenticing with a small family farm, and we've just received lots of Stevia sprouts in the mail! This article is super useful in terms of letting people know how to care for their plants upon purchase. Thank you for taking the time to post this! Happy Gardening!

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