The culinary garden: Stevia

Hierba dulce is the literal translation of the term Guarani ka’a he’e, made up from the words ka’a or caa (herb) and he’e or je (sweet), due to the sweet taste of its leaves. Caajé, green sugar or stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) is a small perennial plant about 80 -100cm tall, native to the region of Monte Grosso (Paraguay / Brazil), where it grows in a tropical climate. In our region stevia loses its leaves during the winter and sprouts again in spring. In late summer, the plant flowers and just before this you can cut the stems to 10cm above the soil, remove and dry the leaves. The leaves retain their sweet flavor indefinitely, which comes from two substances, stevioside and rebaudioside. The leaves are 50 times sweeter than sugar (glucose) and the extract up to 300 times. The plant is easy to grow, in pots or in the ground. In the garden, the crop is perennial, meaning that the plant will grow in the same place for several years. Good growing conditions are fertile ground, sunny and with normal watering. The leaves are used as a sweetener and are recommended for people suffering from diabetes. The simplest form is to make an infusion with tea or some other herb. The leaves can be dried and ground up for a better doseage. If using as a treatment, the leaves should be infused for 30 minutes. Fresh leaves can be eaten fresh in salads, fruit salads, etc..

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