Growing Stevia and Making its Extract at Home
There are many people who are restricted from taking sugar directly as it spikes blood sugar levels in their body. High blood sugar levels are not good as they have severe harmful effects. Stevia is a healthy alternative for sugar. It is not only a sweetener and a substitute for sugar, but it does not have any negative effects on blood sugar levels as well. The sweetness present in stevia is way higher than present in sugar. People on diabetic and carbohydrate controlled diets can take in stevia without fears of any kinds of side effects. The taste of stevia has low onset but remains for longer duration when compared to that of sugar.
Growing stevia at home and making extracts from the same
You might have seen that small packets of stevia are available in the market and are extremely expensive. It is not always possible to make such investments for a sugar substitute. What will you do in such a situation? Well, you can actually grow stevia in your own home in a pot or in the garden and make homemade extract of the same and store it properly. Many people have started growing stevia indoors and are saving on the money that is needed to purchase the small packets of stevia. Along with making an extract from stevia, it is also possible to dry the leaves and use them as a sweetener.
Using seeds for starting stevia plants at home
Stevia seeds are started in the same manner as other kinds of garden seeds. If you are looking to growing stevia from seed, it is recommended to choose darker seeds for the same as their germination rates are higher than the other lighter colored seeds. There should be 1-3 seeds planted in each cell and they should be covered lightly in fine potting soil. For settling the soil, add mild water. The seeds should be put under transparent plastic cover. Fluorescent lighting and temperature in the range of 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit is most suitable for the starting process. It takes about 7-14 days for the seedlings to emerge. Remove the plastic cover once the seedlings emerge.
Transplanting the seedlings
Once the seedlings are about 5 inches tall; cut off 1-2 inches from the shoot for branching. The plants can be then transferred to a larger pot or in the garden. Before moving out, the plants should be stiff and strong. You might need to control the amount of water and sunlight that the plant needs from time to time as per requirements so that stevia plant gets proper nourishment and nutrients and grows into a full-fledged plant.
Harvesting and drying stevia
The moment leaves come on the stevia plant, they can be used as a sweetener. Harvest them and use them as needed. You can make refreshing herbal mint tea with stevia sweetener. If you are targeting a large harvest, you can pick leaves during fall or during late summers. Majority of the recipes of stevia want it to be in dried powder form or as liquid extract. In both these options, the flavor spreads uniformly in the item that is being sweetened.
Drying stevia leaves and using them in various ways
Since the leaves are sweeter than the stems of the stevia plant, the stems are usually discarded. Leaves are cut off and bundled in small bundles and left to hang with threads so that they dry quickly. Along with natural drying, the leaves of stevia plant can also be dried in a commercial or homemade dehydrator. When stored in a clean and proper tight-sealed jar, dried stevia leaves remain in good condition for years. In many places, the dried leaves are also ground to powder. Grinding can be done in batches too. If you compare, you will see that one cup of refined sugar can be replaced with just 3-4 teaspoons of dried stevia. Both the amounts produce the same level of sweetness. However, using stevia sugar for baking might bring some textural changes to the surfaces of the items being baked.
How to make stevia extract at home?
After knowing how to grow stevia, it is time to learn to make stevia extract at home. And it is true that making stevia extract is quite simple and easy. You just need to have stevia for the same readily available. For making the extract, fresh as well as dried stevia leaves can be used. Stevia extract can be made with alcohol base or with water base as per your wish and convenience.
Making stevia extract with alcohol base
Using fresh stevia leaves is best for this preparation. Rinse the leaves well and spin them in the salad spinner well. Chopping the leaves finely will also do. Take a glass jar and place the chopped leaves in the same and add abundant amount of edible alcohol so that the leaves are completely submerged in alcohol. Using vodka is good for its neutral flavor. Place it in an area for 2 days where no sunlight comes. Mix or shake the ingredients quite few times in the bottle. After two days strain the leaves well and collect the liquid in a pan. Take this liquid and place over low heat. Make sure that it doesn’t boil. Let the liquid simmer for 20-30 minutes gently for removing the alcohol content and for concentration. The liquid gets darker and thicker. Strain through a filter and store the liquid in dark colored bottle. Just few drops of this extract are enough for sweetening any item.
Stevia extract with water base
For making this extract, you will need 1 cup water and ½ cup tightly packed dried stevia leaves. Simmer water in a small saucepan and put the dried stevia leaves in the same and stir thoroughly. Remove the pan from the heat. Cover the pan and let it the leaves steep for 40 minutes or so. Strain the leaves and collect the water in a clean glass jar. Cover the jar thoroughly and place it in the refrigerator. This can be stored for 2 weeks.
Use stevia leaves well for sweetening your drink or any other food item.