Stevia

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by charron, Mar 27, 2010.

  1. charron

    charron

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    The 'net says it is a difficult herb to grow.  Any advice from those who have tried (and hopefully succeeded)?  Did you start yours from seed, or seedlings?  Mail order, or local supplier?  I would LOVE to grow some to use in my baking.  I often joke with my customers that our baking is calorie-sugar-guilt free; it would make me very happy if I could say that for real.
     
  2. marmalade

    marmalade

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    It's very tropical, so if you live in the north, you'd have to have a place to overwinter it.  You'd also need to learn how to process the plant to extract the syrup.  And thirdly, I would think you'd need an awful lot of plant to produce just a little bit of syrup.  :) 
     
  3. charron

    charron

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    Syrup?  Everywhere I have seen the instructions for use say to dry and powder the leaves.  Some places suggest steeping the dried leaves to create a fluid form that is easier to measure....  am I thinking of the wrong thing?/img/vbsmilies/smilies/confused.gif
     
  4. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    No, Charron, you're right on track. Stevia is available in several forms.

    For home growers, the most common is to dry and pulverize the leaves. Sometimes, as you've read, a tea is brewed because 1. it's easier to measure consistently, and, 2. you don't get the bits of leaf in your mouth.

    Commercially, stevia is a processed product. The sweetening agents are synthesized as a powder. Like all such products the advantage is uniformity of dosage. Some manufacturers also offer it in liquid form.

    The cost of commercial stevia is, IMO, way out of line, and I recommend that anyone who can grow their own.

    The idea of it being a difficult plant has been overplayed, no doubt by the commercial suppliers. However, it is a semi-tropical plant and is likely to not be hardy in the far north. You'd have to check the hardiness charts to see. But the fact is, you can grow it in containers and bring it back indoors to overwinter. Or (he said softly) even grow it as a houseplant.

    Learning to control stevia is, IMO, more difficult that growing it. Stevia is 300x sweeter than granulated sugar. So it takes a lot of experimenting to figure out amounts in any particular recipe. And, as we've seen on the other thread, even the proponents get the ratios wrong.

    Raw stevia, on the other hand (that is, the dried, pulverized leaves) has a distinct aftertaste that many find objectionable. That has to be taken into account as well.
     
  5. charron

    charron

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    Is there a way to process it at home to eliminate, or at least tone down, the aftertaste?
     
  6. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    My considered response, Charron, is: I dunno.

    The thing is, I don't even know if that aftertaste exists in synthesized stevia. We experimented with it about five years ago and decided it wasn't for us. So I haven't done an in-depth work with it, nor even tasted the commercial stuff.
     
  7. charron

    charron

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    Okey doke.  If I can find it I'll give it a grow and see how it behaves.  I can pretend I have patience enough to wait to find out. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/rolleyes.gif   Experimentation is always so much fun. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/bounce.gif
     
  8. fr33_mason

    fr33_mason

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    Stevia will either be available as seeds or already started at your local nursery.  I start mine in mid February so they have a good start for the growing season.  I treat them like petunias and they do fine. 

      One thing I do is prune regularly as I found the overall growth of Stevia to be on the leggy side.  Regular pruning will encourage compactness and bushiness.  Which is good when it is leaves that you are trying to harvest. 
     
  9. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    Fr33-Mason, just out of curiousity, is it hardy by you, or do you have to protect it over-winter? I figure what works for you would work for Charron.
     
  10. fr33_mason

    fr33_mason

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     I treat it as an annual here.  Overwintering can be done but some additional lighting would be needed from about mid November to the following April.  for around southern Ontario.  Around where I live It is from late October to early the following May due to latitude. Mind you it would be suitable for indoors as you really don't need too much to grow and no real special conditions other than lighting to reproduce.  They propagate well from cuttings which can be transplanted into peat pellets, or whatever grow medium you choose.  Keep them in well drained soil.  Flush with water a good two days before any harvesting (pruning) as it seems to help with the taste.  Otherwise I water when the soil is dry over an inch when i poke down with my finger.. They don't  tolerate any deep chills but on nights where it could get to 1C just cover with a cloth, bed sheet or whatever.  About the same tolerance as a tomato plant in that regard.  

      I find that the chlorophyl is what gives the aftertaste.  I have tried aging the leaves first before fully drying by leaving them in a brown paper bag when they are half wilted after being cut, usually three to five days is what I have here in arid Alberta before going into the bag.  this slightly slows the drying process.  It also allows for the  chlorophyll and starches to break down into sugars. This seems to mellow out the aftertaste and reduce potency.  If you choose to use the method just described  ALLWAYS check for mold as it cures in the bag. When dealing with any dried leafy product it seems a certain amount of curing changes the qualities of leaves such as tea or tobacco. I found it also best used where you are trying to balance out acids in sauces or dishes where sugar/ sweetness would be used or needed.  Just be careful and remember to give it about three to five minutes to fully blossom in your dish after adding it. 
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2010
  11. amazingrace

    amazingrace

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    Could this also be dried the way some other herbs are dried,  tied in bundles and hung upside down in a dark place,  so the darkness would help diffuse the chlorophyl but there would still be air around the leaves to prevent mold?  I'm thinking a dark corner of an attic or basement (if it's not damp there) or in a closet? 
     
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2010
  12. fr33_mason

    fr33_mason

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    Yes, that is how I start the drying process but what I have described above is more of a curing process which furthers the decomposition of the chlorophyll into sugars.