Originally from South America and appreciated for its sweetening properties Stevia it is a perennial herb that we can also grow in Italy with some precautions. Even to use it in our recipes you need some indications because it is not part of our gastronomic tradition but it can become an interesting ingredient.
In this article I will write you about the main characteristics of stevia, how to grow stevia and how to use it.
The full name Stevia Rebaudiana and its leaves contain steviol which is a substance with a strong sweetening power and which at the same time does not harm people who suffer from diabetes or even those who are attentive to the figure.
In fact, steviol does not affect insulin levels and contains few calories but when used it is effective, much more than the classic sugar. If we learn how to grow stevia we can then use it to prepare our natural sweetener to be included in homemade desserts or drinks. It's pretty simple and the benefits are high, it's worth it. Just do dry the leaves in a dry and ventilated place without taking the sunlight and once they have lost all the water they must be blended to obtain a sugar substitute 'sweetener powder'.
How to grow Stevia
It is possible to grow it in pots and it is also easy because it is one modestly sized plant. It is therefore not essential to have a vegetable garden at our disposal but it is important not to let it ever lack water, light and heat.
The best soil is the well-drained one that makes our plants grow more vigorous and sweet, if instead it is more friable and clayey then the leaves do not always have the power we want. When we plant it we have to make sure that it stays in the sun e is not exposed to the wind, the sun must not be too aggressive otherwise the plant dries up and has hydration problems. We should be able to locate a semi-shadow area. In winter when the temperature can drop below zero it is best to withdraw the Stevia inside in a protected area or collect all the leaves and then mulch the earth well to protect the roots waiting for spring.
In the summer, towards the month of March, we can start sowing making sure that there are no temperature changes that can compromise germination. In some situations we can also use the seedbed. To have less problems we can also buy the seedlings and then transplant them into larger pots to allow them to develop. The final pot must be 30 cm in diameter with well-drained soil and a bottom of sand or expanded clay.
Watering must be constant, we always check if the earth is not drying out but we also take care to avoid stagnations which are lethal for herbaceous plants like this one. From time to time we have to prune the Stevia so that a consistent and voluminous bush is formed with many leaves to be collected at the right time. Every now and then you just need to trim, that is to remove only the tops, so that new shoots emerge. After flowering, when the vegetative period is over, it is better to cut all the remaining branches and leaves and hang them to dry so as to be able to obtain the sweetening powder. They remain the roots to be protected with mulch waiting for the following spring.
Just to show that using the Stevia instead of sugar it does not at all mean that you end up cooking sad desserts, here is a delicious recipe, with chocolate. An excellent cake for a snack and for breakfast.
- 130 g 70% dark chocolate
- 120 g flour 00
- 200 g Ricotta
- 70 g Butter (or 80 g seed oil)
- 3 eggs
- 75 g Stevia
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 sachet Powdered baking powder for cakes
We dissolve thechocolate in a bain-marie and then add the bitter cocoa and the butter made in pieces. We mix and let it rest while in another bowl we can combine the eggs and the leaves of stevia mixing them with an electric mixer. A liquid is obtained to add the ricotta and then the sifted flour and yeast.
When the mixture is homogeneous we can add the melted chocolate by now cooled by mixing so that there are no lumps. Let's take one cake pan and line it with baking paper and then pour the mixture into it to be leveled with a spatula. We bring the oven to 170 ° and bake our cake for a good half hour. Before extracting it, we check with a toothpick that it is well done. We can serve it with orange decorations or with icing sugar or rapé coconut.
There are many desserts to cook with thissweetener herb that will not make us regret the absence of sugar. Another very popular cake is the lemon one which is soft and delicate, but we can also prepare biscuits with hazelnuts or tasty chocolate chips.
Where to buy Stevia
If we want to start cultivating this sweetness in our house we can buy seeds and dedicate ourselves to their growth, but if we want to try the benefits in a short time, we can also find convenient online packages of herbal teas that contain it, to sip, like this one, organic and recommended for digestion.