Simply Nahala

Writer. Photographer. Soul Traveler.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Harvesting Stevia


Stevia is a sweet herb that can be used in recipes, to sweeten tea, coffee or medicinal tinctures. I planted a very small organic stevia plant this summer and it has grown by leaps and bounds. It is a tender perennial that loves the sun and dies back in cold weather. The roots generally survive winter and will grow back in the spring, but I've decided to transplant mine and bring it inside for the winter because the plant brings me joy, and yes I talk to plants :)

I first started using liquid stevia when I fell in love with yerba mate tea. Nothing tasted quite right in the tea for me except for stevia, which is a healthy alternative to sugar and other artificial sweeteners as it does not affect or raise the blood sugar level. Stevia is much sweeter than sugar so only a little is necessary to achieve sweetness. The key to using stevia safely is to purchase a brand such as Sweet Leaf stevia or Trader Joe's stevia that is 100% pure without added ingredients. Be wary of any products labeled "all natural." Unfortunately, even stevia labeled "certified organic" can contain added ingredients.

For those of us that grow our own stevia plants, the leaves can be used to make stevia extract or stevia powder. Stevia extract is made by adding alcohol to dried stevia leaves. Stevia powder is made by grinding dried stevia leaves into a powder. You can use fresh stevia leaves in your drinks but it requires a much larger amount to get the desired taste and can taste a bit "earthy."

Harvesting and Drying Stevia

Fall is the best time to harvest stevia because that is when the leaves are the sweetest. You can cut the stems of the plant and place in a small bundle to hang dry, then strip the leaves after they have dried. Another way to harvest stevia is to strip the leaves, discard the stems, and place on an a non-metal screen. Allow to dry in the sun or use a dehydrator. The leaves should dry in one day outside in a warm dry climate. Once the leaves are dry and crisp, store in an airtight glass container that will keep for over a year.

How To Make Stevia Extract 

Stevia extract is very easy to make at home and saves money for someone like me who uses a lot of it. If you don't have a stevia plant to harvest, Mountain Rose Herbs sells stevia seeds, dried stevia leaves, stevia powder, tincture bottles, and other supplies to make your own extract.

Homemade Alcohol Based Stevia Extract

1. Place 1 cup dried leaves in a glass jar and pour enough organic vodka to cover the leaves.
2. Steep the leaves in vodka for 24 hours. No longer because the stevia liquid can become bitter.
3. Filter the leaves through a nut bag, coffee filter, cheesecloth or other fine material.
4. Heat the stevia liquid on low for 20 minutes to remove the alcohol and concentrate the extract (do not boil).
5. Transfer the liquid into an opaque dropper bottle. Cover with lid, label, and date the bottle. Store in your refrigerator for up to 90 days.

Homemade Stevia Powder

Grind dried stevia leaves in a spice/coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle to make powdered stevia. Grind until you get a fine powder. Place stevia powder into an opaque bottle.  Cover with lid, label, and date the bottle.

XO,
Jan






2 comments:

  1. Thank you very much, I will really enjoy making this. Peace to you Nahala, you are a wonderful soul :)

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  2. Thank you djgeo! Hope it turns out well :) Peace to you, another wonderful soul!

    ReplyDelete