Thursday, September 11, 2008

That Mystery Herb-Stevia

During my herbal cleanup day, I came across a layer of herbs that I didn't recognize right away. I broke my cardinal rule of not labeling a layer when it was different than the rest. I came to my senses and remembered what it was. It is stevia (Stevia rebaudiana), the sweet herb of Paraguay. It has been used for hundreds of years by the Guarani Indians of Paraguay. It is 300 times sweeter than sugar. I did a little experiment today and brewed seven leaves in a cup of hot water. I don't usually like sugar in my tea or coffee, but it was slightly sweet and minty. It was quite good. I may use it this winter in a mix of herbs for tea. My plant is just about to bloom. I guess I need to start cutting it and drying it for winter use.  This is the one herb that is OK to cut after it has bloomed.  You know I always preach, cut before it blooms for best flavor.  Stevia is an exception.   I bought it to use in an herbs in container class I taught earlier in the year. If it had stayed in the container, I probably would have had to pot it up to the next size or keep it clipped back during the season. Here is a picture of stevia in my herb garden.

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