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Sweeten Your Garden and Meals - Stevia

Grow your own natural sweetener.  Use leaves of the Stevia plant to sweeten soups, sauces, or beverages.

Grow it outdoors during warm frost-free weather.  It’s a perennial in USDA zones 8 and warmer, so those gardening in colder areas must grow Stevia like an annual. 

Check garden centers and mail order catalogues for plants.  Place stevia plants 12 inches apart in full sun or light shade with moist well-drained soils.  You’ll get the best growth and most leaves during long warm days.

Water thoroughly and whenever the top few inches of soil are crumbly and slightly moist.  Be sure to mulch by spreading a layer of evergreen needles, shredded leaves, or other organic matter over the soil surface to conserve moisture, suppress weeds and improve the soil.

Harvest leaves as needed for sweetening your dishes.  I often eat a leaf when I am having a sweet craving.

A bit more information: Wait for cool short days at the end of the growing season when the sweetness is most intense to make large harvests for drying.  Cut, bundle, and hang stems upside down to dry.   Knock leaves off the stem and save dried leaves in an airtight jar.  Grind the leaves by hand or use a coffee grinder to crush the leaves and release the sweetness.  Dried leaves stored in an airtight jar will last for several years.

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