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End of Season in the Patio Garden

It’s the end of season – more the turn of the season here in the south for the patio garden.

img_0106Since our switch over the herbs, things have thrived quite nicely on the patio. Everything looks busy and happy. The stevia in particular grew really massively.

We all pitched in for a session of pruning and harvesting.

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We stripped leaves and put them into the dehydrator.

I had a few stems that dried very nicely in the open summer air, but others did not dry well in open air at all. I’m glad we had the dehydrator to rely on.

We ended up with a very nice harvest

  • Basil, which will be great for tomato sauces
  • Mint, which will make for soothing and invigorating tea this winter, and
  • Stevia, which we’ll use for sweetening

I’ve grown stevia previously, when we had garden beds in the ground. This was my first experience with it in containers. This summer it did quite well. I’m not sure how it will survive the winter. I’m torn. Our front door is far more sheltered, but the patio has full southern exposure and I’m sure will stay warmer most of the time. I plan to bring one contain indoors for sure, just to be on the safe side.

If you’ve never grown or used fresh stevia, there are a few things I can share. First, it’s stinkin’ cheap compared to any other way you can get stevia. There’s no doubt in my mind, growing your own is the most thrifty way to go. Next, this will be as pure as you can get stevia. How pure, or natural, is up to you. We use mostly organic techniques, but we do water with tap water. But when I use my own stevia for sweetening, there are no other additives – no glycerine or fillers or caking preventatives or anything.

But here’s the big thing: Green stevia (dried or fresh) tastes different. Think about it. The stevia drops we buy are clear. Stevia powder in packets or containers is white.

img_3824Stevia is not white.

So, the stevia I use from my own plants still has all those trace minerals that give it its own uniqueness. It’s not a bad thing, in my mind, it just is. But if you are expecting the more pure sweetness of sugar, you’ll be disappointed. I always compare it to honey: honey adds sweetness, but also its own flavor. Same thing with stevia.

That said, there are certain combinations in which I won’t use stevia. I detest stevia and chocolate. That’s just me, my family doesn’t mind. I find that stevia works great (for me) in most beverages (that aren’t chocolate) and with fruit flavors of all sorts.

One of the ways I use green, homegrown stevia is to make a tea, and then use the tea as a liquid sweetener. We can add it to lemonade, and it works great in smoothies that may need a little flavor boost. I simply pour hot water over the leaves and let steep for about 20 minutes. (Basically, I bring it to a boil, remove from heat, and when the boiling stops, use it.) The ratios vary. The stevia I grew in Texas was seriously intense, and I used about 1 teaspoon of crushed, dried  leaves to 1 cup of water. The stevia we’re harvesting in these pictures isn’t quite as strong, and I’m using a tablespoon (about three times) the amount. These plants are new to me; I’m curious how they’ll do next year, and if a good spring feeding will effect the flavor intensity.

When you are steeping homegrown herbs into infusions (teas), you can just pour the water over the leaves and strain (which can be messy) or use tea bags. I like these tea bags because they have the drawstring. I’ve used fold-over top bags in the past, and they don’t always stay closed as expected… which means I end up straining my tea anyway. These Musing teabags not only have the drawstring, but are completely compostable. No waste.

I received a box of these Musing Tea Bags at no cost for testing and review purposes.
Any opinion expressed here is mine, alone, and influenced by no one else.
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