The Allsberry’s Strawberry Park is not just a strawberry patch, but also a beautiful garden full of many wonderful plant and herbs. One such plant that was found here was stevia rebaudiana, which is part of the chrysanthemum family and goes by “stevia”. This plant originates in the rainforest of South and Central America, with leaves that are incredibly sweet. In fact, its leaves are significantly sweeter than refined sugar, it is an all natural sweetener that has no calories or carbohydrates, and it is non-glycemic. It seems like the perfect sweetener!
Finding stevia growing in gardens outside its tropical habitat is unusual, although there are gardens like the Allsberry’s that are able to grow stevia successfully. Usually, the best way to get stevia to grow is with starter plants or seedlings. That’s because the seeds are just too difficult to get growing otherwise. The plant must be planted when the temperature is warmer than 50 degrees Fahrenheit or it will not survive. For some places around the world, there are very short periods of time when the weather is this warm.
You may purchase stevia extract, which has a significantly higher potency than homegrown leaves. Liquid and powder stevia most frequently have an 80 or 90 percent stevioside level while homegrown stevia is much lower at 10-12 percent. When you pick the leaves and where the plant is grown will also affect how sweet it is.
If you want to give planting stevia a try then you will need to try it out in a garden with loose soil that has plenty of drainage. Rows should be at least one foot apart and closer to two feet is also acceptable. Leave at least one foot between each row.
The stevia plant’s roots oftentimes move towards the surface, which means it is important to watch how much you are watering this plant so it is not sitting in overly wet soil. Consider adding a low nitrogen fertilizer or compost to the garden, too, so your stevia is as sweet as possible.
Some people have even been successful growing stevia indoors. To do this, you will need a pot with a one foot diameter and plenty of potting soil. When you plant the seedling, cover the potting soil with glass marbles, mulch, or something else that will help keep the stevia plant moist. This is important because the roots will come close to the surface and you need to take care to protect them.
Lastly, when you harvest stevia, it is recommended to do so in the morning and as late in the season as possible. It is important to harvest before temperatures dip too low yet wait long enough for the leaves to get as sweet as they can.