Try Something SWEET In Your Garden This Spring


 This spring I really want to plant a nice garden with my husband, Mocs. Each year we talk about it, plan it, but life gets busy and we over look planting. We have had nice gardens in the past, when life was a little slower and it was always so nice to walk out to the back yard and harvest fresh produce for meals. We not only love the enjoyment of gardening and the relaxing way it makes us feel, but the fact that our food has not been sprayed with chemicals, and is fresh. Add to that, cost effective on the grocery bill! 

Once again, I have the thought process of making a big garden as soon as this Wisconsin winter lets up. The Amish in this area are starting to plant Stevia which has sparked Mocs and I curiosities. 
This is what a local Amish woman had to say about last years experiment with planing it:

"I really liked it and here are some reasons why.It was easy, I planted it, it grew and when ever I wanted to can fruit,anything from rhubarb to apple sauce, it was ready to use". "its saved us money as a few plants go a long way and as you know, sugar is expensive"."I like the idea of feeding healthy food to my family. Fruit is healthy, but I hate adding refined sugar". She mentioned that the stevia leaves are 10 times sweeter than sugar and almost calorie free. She also added that it does not promote tooth decay, and doesn't raise blood sugar levels. She and her family use it brewed as a tea, syrup when canning fruit. She plans on experimenting with baking with it this year.
Stevia Plant
Help In Growing Stevia:
1. Plant outside after the danger of any frost.
2. Place in an area if 6 - 8 hours of sun.
3. Mulch with compost or bark up to 3" deep & 2' in diameter. Allow an open collar about 2" wide around the small plant to begin,
4. Allow and keep
plants well irrigated.
5. Harvest small amounts often or trim plnt to about 2" above the ground early summer and again late summer or early fall just before it flowers.
6. Bring plants in when cold and place under 14 hours of fluorescent lighting which are 3" above the plants or treat them as an annual.

Suggestions For Using Fresh Stevia:
1. Add several leaves to a cup of hot liquid.
Approximately 3 tablespoons chopped fresh Stevia = 1 cup of Sugar or 1 teaspoon processed Stevia extract powder.
2. Make a fresh whole leaf extract:
Bring water to a boil then turn off.
Fill tea ball with leaves, pack in.
Steep leaves in water for 30 minutes.
Add this liquid to foods where you don't want the green appearance

Tips for Using Dried Stevia:
1. Dry in a warm, dark dry area.
2. Grind dried leaves to a fine powder with a small spice grinder.
3. Store in an airtight container out of  any light.
4. Approximately 1 tablespoon of dried Stevia powder = 1cup of sugar or 1 teaspoon processed Stevia extract powder.

Sweetness of leaves do vary, so quantities of dried Stevia powder needed might vary.  Experiment with Stevia in different amounts and in different foods. Don't think  of it as just a substitute sugar. It's sweet, unique flavor adds an earthiness to other spice blends as well.

 Your garden doesn't have to be flat and rectangular! Use the spaces that you have available. Make a container garden or use brinks or pallets to build up! You can use buckets, pots, boxes and work with nooks and crannies if you have a small yard. Do you already plant stevia plant? How is it going for you? Does it store well for you?

Some photos via Pinterest.

 Make your garden a little get away, breath it in an relax!


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