Stevia: Natural Sweetness

stevia-natural-sweetnessI have a confession.  I have a sweet tooth.

Coffee in the morning, tea at night, and snacks during the day often “require” some sweetness.  OK, I want them to have some sweetness!

Even though regular white sugar doesn’t have a lot of calories (only 15 calories per teaspoon), it has other drawbacks.  Its cousin, corn syrup, carries many of the same problems.

White sugar (sucrose) and corn syrup (fructose) can:

  • Promote tooth decay.
  • Raise your your blood sugar levels and can lead to diabetes.
  • Become addictive and can lead to binge eating.

The list of bad things that surround processed sugars is almost endless.  From making your face wrinkle to (some people say) causing cancer.

So what are we going to do to get our, “sugar Jones” satisfied?

I won’t consume artificial sweeteners.  Aside from the fact that few actually taste like sugar, they’re typically just a bunch of chemicals to make you think you’ve got something sweet in your mouth.

I like as much natural, organic, unprocessed food as I can get.  Stevia meets my needs in a number of ways.

What is Stevia?

According to this source,

Although stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) looks like an average green plant, it is an exciting choice for the herb garden because of the natural, calorie-free sweetness found in its leaves. Appreciated by diabetics and dieters, stevia is a tender perennial that loves the warm sun and dies back in a freeze.

The plants are very easy to grow.  Put them into a pot or directly into your garden in full sun, and just keep them watered.  In planting zones 8 and higher (basically the west coast, and most of the southern part of the United States), the plants can be grown year ’round.

I’ve grown my stevia in 8″ pots during our winter by placing them in south-facing windows.

Still, like most herbs or vegetables, stevia’s peak season is the summer.  Harvesting the leaves before the first frost yields the most sweetness.

How to Use It

I’ve had little success using it fresh.  While you can take a raw leaf and chew it up some to get a big burst of sweetness, when added to a tea or coffee, the sweetness just isn’t there.  You really need to dry it.

Here’s a great instructional video on how to do just that!

I get to the same place but take a slightly different route.  After cleaning and drying the leaves, I “shred” them through a fine-mesh strainer.  This gives a course powder.  This powder goes into a mortar and pestle to become a very fine powder.

I’m a little bit more hands-on!

Some Drawbacks

I’ve also got to say that I’ve found the sweetness factor  to not be as high as all of these people say.  Most say that the natural green powder is about 30 times sweeter than white sugar.

Not in my experience.

I typically use 3 or 4 teaspoons of sugar for one of my mega-cups of tea (18 fluid ounces).  I’ve got to use a 1/2 teaspoon of powdered stevia to equal 4 teaspoons of white sugar.  So my conversion is about 1:8 instead of 1:30.

You will also have little bits of green in your tea or coffee.  Yeah, the stevia doesn’t dissolve like sugar does.  For me, it’s no big deal, and I just drink them down.  The particles are so fine, you don’t end up with, “spinach tooth”!

As you saw in the video, you can buy the processed stevia powder.  It’s white and looks similar to white sugar.  From everything I’ve read, it is much better for you than white sugar, but I’ve got to say, I’m not too interested.

Even though many brands promote the fact that their processed stevia is perfectly safe, and many note that they don’t use, “bio-engineered” plants, I think I’ll stick to the stevia from my own backyard!

Remember, Boomer Preppers, our whole focus is on independence.  We want to produce and provide for as much of our needs as is possible.  For things we consume, we have so many options from which to choose.

Food and drink are two of the categories where achieving total self-sufficiency is well within the reach of most Boomers!

 

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