Wednesday, July 20, 2011

sweet days... and my own homegrown sweetener

What a beautiful morning it is. A late afternoon downpour of rain yesterday made things all fresh and glistening. Today, the skies are clear and blue.

I'm happy, getting back in the groove of home life. Laundry is getting done, the fridge is re-stocked with lots of wonderful, vibrant produce, and I'm welcoming the return to regular running and weight lifting. (I did simple hand weightlifting when I lost all the weight 3 years ago and haven't done any since. I think it will be a good idea to incorporate some sessions in the week to help me get a little more toned.) It was nice to go over to my trainer/friend's house early this morning and have a workout with her.

 Yesterday's trip to the library yesterday has us satisfied. Jane and I attended a 3 hour class at The Herb Shop last night entitled "Living Foods From Your Food Storage". Lots of great info on lacto-fermenting veggies and dairy products, sourdough baking, and sprouting. Lots of good food to taste. I can't believe how much the presenter made for us to try. I'm really excited and motivated to do more here.

My garden is getting there, as far as the weeding goes. I can honestly say that weeding is so relaxing to me, especially in the quiet, early morning hours. (I wanted some time out there this morning, but things are still too wet. Maybe tonight.) One nice thing about letting the weeds grow big is that they're much easier to pull out! I can't believe how much growth and filling-in happened while we were away. I've already harvested a lot of summer squashes, and every morning Jane and I go out to pick as much kale, collard greens, and chard as we want for our green smoothies. I'm so glad I planted these this year- a first.

Another plant that is new for me this year (and loving) is this herb called stevia. Here it is: (It's next to my lemon balm, 3 rhubarb plants, and the many greens already mentioned.).

A native plant of Central and South America, this herb is 30-45 times sweeter than table sugar.  Very popular in Japan, it was first commercially grown there as an alternative to artificial sweeteners. It gradually has become more available and grown in popularity in the U.S.  

Like some of you, I started using little packets of this (processed, refined, and commerical- names like Truvia, SweetLeaf, etc. A white powder instead of the green that it truly is.) sweetener in my plain yogurt, peppermint tea, sprinkled on top of oatmeal, and in green smoothies. I was attracted to it because it wasn't artificial, no calorie, low carb (maybe no carb?), and doesn't spike blood sugar levels like other sweeteners do. A little bit goes a long way, and some brands have more pronounced of an aftertaste (a little like licorice) than others.

This spring, when I was at my favorite nursery, I was so pleased to see that they were offering stevia plants to home gardeners like me. Again, public interest and demand. In my research, this plant seems to like loamy, well drained soil and frequent summer watering, with a capacity to grow up to 30 inches and two feet wide.

During the summer, I plan on using it in smoothies (just a couple of leaves will do it for a blender full) and also to sweeten tea. When fall comes (harvest as late as you can before frost; it gets sweeter as it matures.), I'll pick the leaves and will either air dry or dehydrate. Then, in my blender, I'll pulverize the leaves into powder form and store this in a glass jar to put on my pantry shelves. Maybe I'll even try my hand at making a liquid extract.

Never thought I'd have a homegrown source of SWEET.

Now, that's what I call sweet self-reliance!


  1. Garden can bring many joys! The stevia plant seems to be a great asset in the garden! I love down-pouring rain in the Summer! reminds me of Africa!

  2. I love all of this! It's so neat that you are growing stevia. We are trying to grow quinoa this year, although with little luck. Loads of kale, though, so I am one happy mama!

  3. yes, I love all this too. I just wish I even liked stevia. It taste chemically or artificial to me for some reason. However, I do know it is a good choice for sweetener. Have a good rest of your day :)