Tuesday, April 12, 2011

If You're Thinking of Growing Stevia...

...I have a couple things to say.  First of all, for us, stevia (scroll to the bottom and read up) was extremely easy to grow (from plants), harvest, dry, crush and store.

What I've learned this past week through researching things further is that if you want to use stevia for baking, there are other (more processed) versions that produce better results.  "Green leaf stevia", which is what we grew and have dried, is best for using in drinks.  We discovered this when we added fresh stevia leaves to our mint leaves when making (cold) mint tea all summer- it was heaven.  It's also excellent when the dried leaves (either whole or crushed) are used in hot tea- also delicious.

But, what website after website that I came across said was that the green leaf stevia can be seen in baked dishes (small green flecks) and can even be tasted (a mild licorice taste that we haven't noticed in drinks).  Hm.

This left me a bit disappointed, but at the same time relieved that I didn't spend hours and ingredients trying to reinvent the stevia-in-baked-goods wheel.  I'm sure it's not impossible, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it's not going to be the same regardless.  If I'm going to decide to stop eating sweets (no one is saying that that's what I'm going to do), I think I'd rather just give it up all together than try to re-create something that I love, wasting time and ingredients, and then be disappointed.

Case in point:  Last year when I had given up sugar for Lent, I purchased some brown rice syrup.  The ingredients are organic brown rice and distilled water only.  It looks like caramel topping and tastes like Werther's candies.  I found a recipe for brownies that used no sugar- just brown rice syrup.  How did they turn out?  Well, they were dense, on the dry side and tasted kind of like very dark chocolate.  Topped with fresh homemade vanilla ice cream, they'd be just fine, but that would defeat the purpose, I suppose.  So, I'd prefer to go with out.

I did then come across these recipes (scroll down) using green leaf stevia, but I noted many were for drinks and the others just didn't appeal to me after my brownie experiment.

With documentaries coming out of the woodwork left and right telling us that what ails us is what we eat (like Forks Over Knives, thanks, Damian), the truth of the matter is that we (I) need to stop thinking that I can turn the bad stuff into good stuff and just get used to eating the good stuff.  Only.  Or mostly.  Or somewhere in between.

Easier said than done. 

In a nut shell, green leaf stevia is DIVINE for tea, both hot and cold and SO worth growing just for this purpose.  If you want to grow it for other purposes, do some research and weigh the benefits of trying to use it as a substitute.

It might be easier just to change the way you eat:-). Pin It


  1. Thy Hand

    I have grown Steva for the past couple years and like you love it in drinks, but quickly found a way to use it in baking.

    I dried the whole leaves, crumbled them, and then put them in my herb coffee grinder and turned them into a fine powder, I mix 1 tsp of this powder with apple sauce and use in any recipe to use less fat and sugar content.

    So as example, Chocolate Cake, I use 3/4 cup of apple sauce with 1 tsp powdered Steva, along with 2 tbsp of oil, and 1/4 cup of sugar, instead of 1/4 to 1/2 cup of oil, and a full cup or more of sugar..

    I have used the same type of cutting lowering of calories/fat in all different kinds of my baking, I have also mixed it with mushy prune's, and pear butter but mainly its with apple cause it works with so many of the recipes flavorwise.

    I have not been able to replace the sugar with it, but I can cut the amount down hugely, Never noticed a aftertaste but then again, I am a spice girl in my baking.

    Up to you if you want to try this, but its worked really well for me and mine.

  2. I agree that the SAD we are used to contains far too many sweets, and that fruit (along with sweet veggies and dairy) should be our main source of sugar. However, one can have success with stevia without getting into a bunch of weirdness that we are trying to avoid in the first place. Investing in a good stevia cookbook (that is cohesive with a real food lifestyle) is the first step, IMO. Are you familiar with Debi Pearl? Here is a video she posted that is really cool! http://www.youtube.com/user/NGJMinistries#p/search/0/-p5lxS_V-5Y

  3. Great point about turning bad stuff into good stuff...xo

  4. I was thinking about growing stevia but then when I tried it I was disappointed. The only thing I use it in now is homemade toothpaste because that it is similar to the artificial sweetener taste in store bought toothpaste.
    I completely agree with you on not trying to make bad things good. It's like telling a kid that raisins are the same as candy. Instead we should be telling our kids and ourselves that raisins are sweet and good to eat and nutritious instead of trying to make raisins like candy. I still might plant some stevia but just not for baking purposes. I would like to learn how to like it in tea.
    Thanks for the post :)

  5. "...the truth of the matter is that we (I) need to stop thinking that I can turn the bad stuff into good stuff and just get used to eating the good stuff. Only. Or mostly. Or somewhere in between."

    Amen. I'm all about using real ingredients for real food...and that includes the sweets. Moderation is key (though you may not be able to tell that I possess any if you look at my blog).

    Also, I'm going to be making (and posting) a mint cake that calls for dried mint leaves---the bits of green are visible and charming. Perhaps stevia would work in that situation?

  6. Jennifer Jo...if that mint cake is anything like my mom's, I can not wait until you post the recipe. I love, love, love that cake.

    I agree that we just need to forgo the sweets instead of changing them. I've had some successes with substitutions of different kinds but for the most part, I'd just rather not eat a fiddled-with recipe.

    And it's weird...now that I'm not eating nearly as many sweets, I don't crave them so much. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by that but I am!

  7. hummmmmmmm very interesting, I sure learned a lot in this post, thank you and have a great day.


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