Stevia, or Honey Grass
Stevia is a perennial herb from the family Asteraceae, the leaves of which contain glucoside (stevioside), it is 300 times sweeter than sucrose. This sugar substitute is useful for everyone, especially those with diabetes and obesity. It is no accident that the plant that came to us from South America (Paraguay) seeks to grow many gardeners. Only here the idea of the agricultural technology of stevia is not right for everyone.
Stevia honey, or Honey grass (Stevia rebaudiana) - a species of plants of the genus Stevia (Stevia) Astrovic or Asteraceae family.
Growing Stevia from Seeds
The optimum temperature of the soil and air for the growth and development of honey stevia is 15..30 ° C heat.
In our country, stevia is preferable to grow as an annual plant. First, seedlings are prepared (seeds sown until mid-May), then two-month-old plants are planted in the greenhouse. However, I prefer to sow stevia immediately to a permanent place - in pots. There should be a hole in the bottom of the pot, in addition, I lay down the container with a layer of 3 cm gravel, then sand. I make up the soil for stevia from garden soil and humus or lowland peat (3: 1), pH 5.6-6.9 (neutral).
Stevia seeds are very small, 4 mm long, 0.5 mm wide. Therefore, I do not close them up, but simply lay them out on the surface of the moistened soil, then water them with water. I cover the pots with the sowing with a transparent glass jar, a plastic bottle or a film and put in heat (20..25 ° C). Under such conditions, stevia emerges after 5 days. I keep seedlings in the light, but under a can. After 1.5 months after germination, I gradually remove the jar for a while, during the week I teach the plants to live without shelters. Strengthening seedlings without shelters I transfer to the windowsill illuminated by the sun.
After I remove the shelter from the plants, I make sure that the soil does not dry out (it must always be very moist). To keep the air humid, I spray plants with water at room temperature two to three times a day. When the plants grow, I transfer the pots to the greenhouse. Starting from the second month after the appearance of stevia seedlings, I feed them every two weeks, alternating mineral and organic fertilizers. Consumption per 10 l: 10 g each of 34% ammonium nitrate and 40% potassium salt, 20 g of double superphosphate. Mullein I breed in a proportion of 1:10. By autumn, plants reach 60-80 cm.
Stevia propagation by cuttings
If you can’t buy fresh seeds, then I definitely leave for the winter several pots with stevia, which I keep at home and use as uterine for cutting green cuttings.
The green stalk is part of a young shoot with buds and leaves. I harvest them from well-developed, healthy Stevia plants, whose age is at least two months. The best time for cutting cuttings is from mid-May to early June.
I cut the shoots so that a stump with two or four leaves remains on the uterine plant of stevia. Then from the buds located in the axils of the leaves, by autumn 2-4 stems grow up to 60-80 cm long, the leaves of which can be used for food.
For rooting, a green Stevia stalk should have three to five internodes, of which the top with leaves and the bottom without them. I root the stevia cuttings in a glass or enamel container with water or 1% sugar solution (one teaspoon per 1 liter of water). I close the jar with black material so that the rays of the sun do not fall into it: in the dark, cuttings root better. I put cardboard on top of the can with holes in which I put the cuttings so that the lower internode without leaves was immersed in water, and its leaves did not touch and remained in the air. I cover the cuttings with a transparent jar of a larger size or part of a plastic bottle.
I change the water after 3 days, and for better rooting, I spray the stevia leaves with water or a 1% sugar solution three times a day. At a temperature of 18..25 ° C, the roots grow back in a week. And when they reach 5-8 cm (in two weeks), I plant Stevia on a bed in a greenhouse or in pots and for a week I keep seedlings under the film. The soil must be moist before rooting the cuttings.
Adult plants accumulate glycoside in the sun. However, young stevia and unrooted cuttings die under its rays. Therefore, I shade the bed with gauze or other material. I use the soil and look after rooted stevia in the same way as I grew from seeds. Watering as necessary, but at least once a week. 3 months after the rooting of the green cuttings, Stevia shoots reach a length of 60-80 cm.
Pour boiling water over stevia leaves fresh and dried in the shade and leave for 2-3 hours. I use the infusion to make stewed fruit, coffee, cereals, and confectionery.
About the benefits of stevia
Stevia leaves are 300 times sweeter than sugar and contain more than 50 substances useful for the human body: mineral salts (calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, iron, cobalt, manganese); vitamins P, A, E, C; beta-carotene, amino acids, essential oils, pectins.
The uniqueness of stevia lies in the combination of vitamins and minerals with high sweetness and low calorie content. Therefore, drinks and products with stevia are used to control body weight in case of diabetes.
As a sweetener, it is widely used in Japan, and in the USA and Canada it is used as a food supplement. Medical studies show good results with the use of stevia for the treatment of obesity and hypertension.
The myth of the dangers of stevia
Often, a 1985 study is cited on the Internet stating that steviosides and rebaudiosides (contained in stevia) supposedly cause mutations and, as a result, are a carcinogen.
However, many detailed and comprehensive studies have not been carried out confirming this claim. In particular, in 2006, the World Health Organization (WHO) conducted a comprehensive assessment of experimental studies conducted on animals and humans, and made the following conclusion: “steviosides and rebaudiosides are non-toxic, genotoxicity of steviol and some of its oxidative derivatives has not been found in vivo” .
The report also did not find evidence of carcinogenicity of the product. The report also said the beneficial properties: "stevioside showed a certain pharmacological effect in patients with hypertension and in patients with type 2 diabetes."
Used material on the cultivation of stevia: G. Vorobyova