Stevia, a natural zero-calorie sweetener, is extracted from the leaves of the plant of the same name, a perennial shrubby herb from Paraguay. More than 150 species of stevia have been described in nature, but rebaudiana is the only one that also possesses important sweetening properties. In this regard we will illustrate you how to grow stevia, following some useful indications.
How to sow stevia
Starting from the seed, the cultivation could be a little complex so if you don't have much experience it is better to opt for the seedlings.
The seeds should be planted from March or in any case when the temperatures are milder; they are very small and have a slight fluff. Since they are very sensitive, it is preferable to keep them in a cool and dry place, away from heat sources. For sowing, here's how to proceed:
- Lightly plant the seeds, making sure they are covered by the earth, then water them gently with a sprayer: you will need a small pot, filled with good moist soil.
- Place the container in a sunny environment until germination: it will happen within a week. For the success of the operation it is essential to ensure a temperature not lower than 20-25 degrees and a constant humidity level.
- When the plants have grown, arrange them in larger pots, with the addition of a little organic fertilizer.
How to grow stevia
Starting from the seedlings is much easier. Here's how to proceed:
- Place the seedlings in an area with plenty of light and sheltered from the wind
- Irrigate the soil regularly: the soil must be kept constantly moist but without creating stagnant water
- In mid-autumn, place the plant in a greenhouse or home, preferably near a window so it can enjoy a good amount of light. Alternatively, it can be left outside, provided it is protected with a good mulch: in doing so, our Stevia will completely lose the aerial part but will come back the following spring.
Stevia leaves can be used fresh to prepare infusions and decoctions. You can also dry the twigs: just hang them upside down in a dark and airy environment. When they are completely dry, you can chop them with the mixer or blender to obtain an extremely sweetening powder.