Concerns around population growth, increased urbanization, higher levels of consumption by households and sanitation needs are also focused around rising demand for food and water.
This is causing concern that inefficient food production and distorting agricultural subsidies are contributing towards water shortages. According to UN sources, agriculture uses approximately 70% of the world’s accessible water every year while in developing countries agriculture uses as much as 90% of available water.
In comparison to all other arable crops sugarcane requires high levels of water and also has one of the longest growing periods. Sugarcane requires between 1,500mm to 2,500mm of annual rainfall with a growing season ranging between a minimum of 9 months up to 18 months for newly planted cane.
On the other hand If growing your own calorie-free, Less Watery natural sweetener sounds too good to be true, it’s time to get to know stevia. (Stevia rebaudiana) produces leaves packed with super-sweet compounds that remain stable even after the leaves have been dried.
What is Stevia?
Stevia is an herb, originally from South America(. Native to Paraguay and other tropical areas of the Americas, the stevia plant (Stevia rebaudiana) produces leaves packed with super-sweet compounds that remain stable even after the leaves have been dried), though it now grows throughout the world.
It is naturally very sweet and considered 100 to 200 times sweeter than sugar, but it doesn’t raise blood sugar levels like sugar and other artificial sweeteners do.It has been used as a sweetener and medicinal herb in various cultures around the world for centuries but has only gained modern popularity in recent years.
There are two compounds in stevia that are responsible for the sweetness: Stevioside and Rebaudioside A. Rebaudioside A is most often extracted and used in stevia powders and sweeteners, but it is not usually the only ingredient. In fact, most stevia sweeteners on the market contain added erythritol from corn, dextrose or other artificial sweeteners.
Stevioside only makes up about 10% of the sweetness in stevia. It also contains most of the beneficial properties of stevia that are credited with the health benefits and is the most well studied.
Here a big question can arise in mind of reader that what we can do with it in Pakistan?
Just remember the Water issues and sugar born diseases in Pakistan its reality is very Horny. Agricultural experts explained that farmers could earn a net profit of Rs470,000 per acre annually from stevia cultivation at the commercial level. Its leaves also contain calcium which can help in children’s growth.
Agricultural experts have successfully cultivated stevia (sugar) plant in 12 districts of Punjab, which will lead to its commercialization.
Ready way to use home fresh suger:
Once all your leaves have been harvested you will need to dry them. This can be accomplished on a screen or net. (For a larger application, an alfalfa or grain drier can be used, but about the only way an average gardener might gain access to such a device is to borrow it from a friendly neighborhood farmer).
The drying process is not one that requires excessive heat; more important is good air circulation. On a moderately warm fall day, your stevia crop can be quick dried in the full sun in about 12 hours. (Drying times longer than that will lower the stevioside content of the final product.) A home dehydrator can also be used, although sun drying is the preferred method.
Crushing the dried leaves is the final step in releasing stevia’s sweetening power. This can be done either by hand or, for greater effect, in a coffee grinder or in a special blender for herbs. You can also make your own liquid stevia extract by adding a cup of warm water to 1/4 cup of fresh, finely-crushed stevia leaves. This mixture should set for 24 hours and then be refrigerated.
Growing Stevia Without Land
Just because you live within the confines of an apartment or condominium doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the benefits of stevia farming. This versatile plant can be grown either in pots on your balcony or any sunny spot, or else in a hydroponic unit. Stevia plants also do quite well in “container gardens.”
A 10″ to 12″ diameter container filled with a lightweight growing mix is an ideal size for each plant. A little mulch on the top will help retain the moisture in the shallow root zone. A properly fertilized hydroponic unit or container garden can provide you with as much stevia as an outdoor garden, if not more.
Grow three to five plants for a year’s supply of Sugar (dried stevia leaves).
Is Stevia Safe?
To answer this question, it is important to differentiate between processed forms of stevia and the naturally occurring herbal form. Stevia as the green plant that you can grow in your backyard or find as dried leaf or tincture form is considered safe and has even been studied and found to have health benefits.
Powdered and bleached stevia, though FDA approved, has not been studied and undergoes an extensive chemical process to reach its final white powdered form.
- Facts about stevia plant
- In Japan and many East Asian regions, stevia plant parts are being used to sweeten tea, sweets, sauce, confectionary, and soft drinks.
- Stevia extracts are further refined for use as table sugar. It can then be added to jam, yogurt, ice creams, smoothies, desserts, chewing gum, and sorbets and also to sweeten bitter medicines.
- In Brazil, it is used as a remedy to treat diabetes, high blood pressure, stress conditions.
- Stevia is the herb plant in the Asteraceae It is being used in some advanced countries as a safe low-calorie alternative, especially in restricted carbohydrate diets.
- It has been safely used by Guarani tribes of Paraguay for centuries without any adverse effects; the fact which is endorsed recently by World Health Organization.
- Further, stevia has many natural antioxidants that help lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and control diabetes.
M.Sc.(Hons) Agricultural Biotechnology, University of Agriculture Faisalabad, Pakistan.
Biotechnologist, Poet, Writer, ambassador of Reading And Knowledge Society UAF