Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Growing Stevia

Today I planted Stevia in a self watering pot
Growing Stevia Plants
It is a short lived perennial.
A South American perennial shrub (Stevia rebaudiana)

The 1990s the U.S.placed a trade embargo on stevia in because its safety was not proven,The  FDA (in 2008) found that stevia doesn't present any long-term dangers. In South America, stevia has been used for many centuries without any known side effects.

In northeastern Paraguay, stevia populations have been found in the watershed of the Ypane River
elevation of about 650 feet. Plants occur naturally on the edges of marshes or in grassland communities, that have soil with shallow water tables sites are continuously moist but not soggy. It is found near water growing in sandy mucky well drained infernal soil. It does bot do well competing with weeds. And cultivation has decreased its abundance in the area.

Growing Stevia

The majority of stevia plants are sold are produced by cuttings. Seed have a poor germination rate.
you can try to start from seed indoors in late winter, but it's best to grow it from rooted cuttings.

Stevia grows best in warm conditions similar to those preferred by basil. It like full sun, but cool temperatures. It is said to not do well in high heat. Where summers are extremely hot, stevia benefits from slight afternoon shade
3-5 plants may be enough for a years supply depending on how much you use it.

Wait a couple weeks after your last frost date to plant out doors, In loose, loamy,sandy well-drained soil Stevia doesn't like soggy soil!  Raised beds would be best for drainage. Stevia occurs naturally on soils of pH 4 to 5, but thrives with soil pH as high as 7.5. However,It grows best when soil pH ranges from 6.7 to 7.2.Stevia does not tolerate saline soils (high levels of salt)
It can grow 1 to 3 feet in height, And 18 to 24 around, depending on the length of your growing season

Srevia has fine roots that spread out on the surface of the soil, while a thicker part of the root grows deep into the soil.The root system is superficial with few lateral roots developed and it cannot be tolerated either in the lack of water or under the power of strong winds.

It grows best in Us Zone 9 and above. But will do well if covered over in Zone 8.
NOTE: You can dig it up and pot indoors for the winter.It is considered a perennial (4-6 years) second year plants are not as productive as first year. But it is better to take cutting and start new plants for next spring.

Stevia doesn't have any known diseases or pests.

you must trim back the plants several times to induce branching, or it will grow lanky

Harvest and Storage
You can cut the plant in half mid summer. Dry the leaves for use. And make new plants from cutting.
Leaves are sweetest in the cool temperatures of autumn. They also taste best prior to the plant blooming. in early to mid-Autumn.

Stevia grows well in containers. Like oregano and basil

At the end of September or beginning of October, harvest the entire plant once flower buds have appeared but before they've opened. Ideally, harvest in the morning when the plant is at its highest sugar content.

If you wait till  (4-5 buds) have open, or If most of the flowers have blossomed, they will leave behind a bitter aftertaste throughout the entire plant.

It is best to dehydrate the leaves. But you can place them in an oven at 150 degree till the leaves are crisp. It is best to grind them when you are ready to use them. In a coffee grinder or food processor. Store the dried leaves in an airtight container, placed in a cool dark area.

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