Who has one?
My wife and I are using (and liking) the Atkins diet and are looking for a
way to make homemade catsup sans added sugar.
We are also planning on growing stevia this year. Does anyone have growing
/ useage tips?
I'll try to attach a file on growing stevia. Google will
give you a book's worth on stevia.
You need not be a South American planter to be a successful stevia
While the herb's native locale may make it appear somewhat exotic, it
to be quite adaptable and capable of being cultivated in climate zones
diverse as Florida and southern Canada.
True, home-grown stevia may lack the potency of refined white
extract; whole stevioside content generally ranges from 81 to 91
compared to a leaf level of approximately 12 percent. But it can
with a quantity of freshly harvested stevia 'tea leaves' to augment
of commercial stevia sweeteners.
Organic gardeners in particular should find stevia an ideal
their yield. Though nontoxic, stevia plants have been found to have
insect-repelling tendencies. Their very sweetness, in fact, may be a
natural defense mechanism against aphids and other bugs that find it
their taste. Perhaps that's why crop-devouring grasshoppers have been
to bypass stevia under cultivation.
Then, too, raising stevia yourself, whether in your back yard or
balcony, is another positive way you can personally (and quite
the wrongheaded government policies that have for so long deprived the
people of its benefits -- a kind of contemporary Victory Garden.
HOW TO START YOUR OWN STEVIA PATCH
It would be difficult, at best, to start a stevia patch from
that is, by planting seeds. Even if you could get them to
might well prove disappointing, since stevioside levels can vary
plants grown from seed.
The recommended method is rather to buy garden-ready 'starter'
which given stevia's 'growing' popularity, may well be obtainable
nursery or herbalist in your area -- provided you're willing to
scout around a
bit. If you're not, or are unsuccessful in locating any, there are
three growers of high-quality stevia who will ship you as many baby
Keep in mind that not all stevia plants are created equal in
stevioside content, and, hence, sweetness. It's therefore a good
idea to try
to determine if the plants you're buying have been grown from
source was high in stevioside.
Because tender young stevia plants are especially sensitive to
temperatures, it's important that you wait until the danger of frost
and soil temperatures are well into the 50s and 60s before
into your garden.
Once you begin, it's best to plant your stevia in rows 20 to 24
apart, leaving about 18 inches between plants. Your plants should
grow to a
height of about 30 inches and a width of 18 to 24 inches.
THE CARE AND FEEDING OF STEVIA
Stevia plants do best in a rich, loamy soil -- the same kind in
common garden-variety plants thrive. Since the feeder roots tend to
near the surface, it is a good idea to add compost for extra
nutrients if the
soil in your area is sandy.
Besides being sensitive to cold during their developmental
roots can also be adversely affected by excessive levels of
moisture. So take
care not to overwater them and to make sure the soil in which they
drains easily and isn't soggy or subject to flooding or puddling.
Frequent light watering is recommended during the summer
a layer of compost or your favorite mulch around each stevia plant
keep the shallow feeder roots from drying out.
Stevia plants respond well to fertilizers with a lower nitrogen
than the fertilizer's phosphoric acid or potash content. Most
fertilizers would work well, since they release nitrogen slowly.
GATHERING AUTUMN STEVIA LEAVES
Harvesting should be done as late as possible, since cool autumn
temperatures and shorter days tend to intensify the sweetness of the
they evolve into a reproductive state. While exposure to frost is
still to be
avoided, covering the plants during an early frost can give you the
another few weeks' growth and more sweetness.
When the time does come to harvest your stevia, the easiest
to cut the branches off with pruning shears before stripping the
an extra bonus, you might also want to clip off the very tips of the
add them to your harvest, as they are apt to contain as much
stevioside as do
If you live in a relatively frost-free climate, your plants may
able to survive the winter outside, provided you do not cut the
short (leaving about 4 inches of stem at the base during pruning). In
case, your most successful harvest will probably come in the second
Three-year-old plants will not be as productive and, ideally, should
replaced with new cuttings.
In harsher climates, however, it might be a good idea to take
will form the basis for the next year's crop. Cuttings need to be
before planting, using either commercial rooting hormones or a natural
made from willow tree tips, pulverized onto a slurry in your blender.
dipping the cuttings in such a preparation, they should be planted in
rooting medium for two to three weeks, giving the new root system a
form. They should then be potted -- preferably in 4.5-inch pots --
placed in the sunniest and least drafty part of your home until the
UNLOCKING THE SWEETNESS IN YOUR HARVEST
Once all your leaves have been harvested you will need to dry
This can be accomplished on a screen or net. (For a larger
alfalfa or grain drier can be used, but about the only way an average
might gain access to such a device is to borrow it from a friendly
neighborhood farmer). The drying process is not one that requires
heat; more important is good air circulation. On a moderately warm
your stevia crop can be quick dried in the full sun in about 12 hours.
(Drying times longer than that will lower the stevioside content of
product.) A home dehydrator can also be used, although sun drying is
Crushing the dried leaves is the final step in releasing stevia's
sweetening power. This can be done either by hand or, for greater
a coffee grinder or in a special blender for herbs. You can also make
own liquid stevia extract by adding a cup of warm water to 1/4 cup of
finely-crushed stevia leaves. This mixture should set for 24 hours
GROWING STEVIA WITHOUT LAND
Just because you live within the confines of an apartment or
doesn't mean you can't enjoy the benefits of stevia farming. This
plant can be grown either in pots on your balcony or any sunny spot,
in a hydroponic unit. Stevia plants also do quite well in "container
gardens." A 10" to 12" diameter container filled with a lightweight
mix is an ideal size for each plant. A little mulch on the top will
retain the moisture in the shallow root zone. A properly fertilized
hydroponic unit or container garden can provide you with as much
stevia as an
outdoor garden, if not more.
SOURCES FOR MAIL-ORDER STEVIA PLANTS
The Herbal Advantage is a Missouri herb supplier offering 2 1/4" pot
stevia plants ready for planting in your garden. For information and
call 800-753-9929, or write to them at Rte. 3, Box 93, Rogersville, MO
Richter's Herbs, a Canadian business, offers plants in 2 1/2" pots via
to customers in the U.S. and Canada. For information and prices, you
(905) 640-6677 or fax them at (905) 640-6641 or write them at 357
Goodwood, Ontario L0C-1A0
Well Sweep Herb Farm is another source offering plants in 3" pots
mail order or to customers who stop by. It is located at 205 Mt.
Port Murray, NJ 07865 or can be reached at (908) 852-5390
Reprinted from "The Stevia Story," copyright 1997 by Donna Gates.
courtesy Agriculture Canada.
You could use a standard recipe for catsup and omit the sugar (make a
small batch first and see how you like the taste or use an artificial
sweetner if that has already proven to be ok for you.
Search for catsup & Ketchup -- there are dozens of recipes there,
though none explicitly say sugar-free. They could be modified, or give
you ideas for a flavor variant.
I am thinking of doing this myself-- no sugar no sweetner, maybe with
some horseradish to make it spicier(like a chili sauce). I am a
Ketchupaholic since childhood, when I used to make an occasional
DiGiTAL ViNYL (no email)
Zone 6b/7, Westchester Co, NY, 1 mile off L.I.Sound
1st Year Gardener
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