Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The joys of Stevia leaves

Last week, my house was smelling of boiled Stevia leaves. It is difficult to describe...I suppose it is the kind of smell you would get by boiling grass. Not terribly unpleasant, but nothing to write home about.

Now why was I boiling Stevia leaves? And what are Stevia leaves.

Well, during the course of intensive investigations into the health sciences...OK, I read a small article on the web... I discovered that Aspartame has serious side effects, everything ranging from breathing problems, chronic fatigue to damaging the eyes.

You can check up this site:

There are lots of other sites on the internet as well, with similar information, in case you feel this one is run by a nut case. I know you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet, but you can’t believe everything you read nowadays in newspapers and medical journals either, so you take a personal call on these things. Me, I am willing to believe this. I always felt suspicious of Aspartame and Saccharine. I am suspicious of anything that looks like a factory produced chemical and carries the warning label "may be injurious to health if taken in large quantities" and "not recommended for children".

Unfortunately, ever since I was diagnosed with a small excess of blood sugar three years ago, I am on sugar substitutes. At least, I use sugar substitutes as far as possible in unnecessary areas like tea and coffee so I am free to indulge in 'necessary areas' (for a dessert addict like myself) like post-lunch desserts.

Anyway, my further researches lead to a wonderful sounding plant called Stevia, which has been used by South American Indians for thousands of years as a sweetener. It is calorie free, non-sugar based and is free from bad side effects, and in fact has beneficial properties. It is also widely popular in South-East Asia, but has been apparently been blocked in US by the machinations of the artificial sweetener industry.

More stuff on Stevia:-
and of course...

I found that there is a product in the Indian market called 'Dr Shugar" which is Stevia based. Unfortunately, it is nearly twice as expensive as Aspartame based sweeteners, and it is again a chemically processed form of Stevia. I tried it anyway, and found it added an unpleasant taste to the tea.

Since I am anyway reluctant to use artificially processed foodstuff, and also don’t like shelling out money, I thought...why not use raw Stevia leaves?

Internet to the rescue again, and I discovered there is a small nursery in Bangalore which grows it….S.J. Herbals and Nursery, somewhere in the northern suburbs of Bangalore. I called up the proprietor, a kind gentleman called Mr. Raghavendra, and discovered that he sells dried Stevia leaves as a branded product called "Dine& Diet" in 100 gm packets, with only one retail outlet in Rajajinagar called Sriranga Medicals opposite Navrang talkies. Since I was too lazy to move my bums to Rajajinagar, he very kindly delivered a kilo of dried Stevia leaves to my doorstep for Rs 500 (10 packets of Dine & Diet)...enough to last me a year. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t sell anything less.

So how does one use it? You take 50 gm (half of one of those 100 gm packets), and simmer it in 2.5 liters of water (two and a half 1 liter mineral water bottles full) for about twenty minutes, until it reduces to 1 Liter. You strain this in a piece of cloth into a bottle, and put it in the refrigerator. The end result of the process is a bottle of evil looking green liquid, and a big clump of green residue. I fancied the residue might make a good manure, and fed it to my bamboo plant. It hasn’t protested…yet. So how do you use the liquid? You just add a spoonful of the stuff to a cup of tea or coffee. It can also be used for cooking and baking- unlike Aspartame, it does not break down at cooking temperatures. I found it adds a subtle but nice flavor to the tea, not at all unpleasant, unlike Dr Shugar.

One bottle will last me about a month, I estimate. So that whole treasure trove should easily last me more than a year. Anyone who wants to borrow some from me is welcome...I don’t fancy keeping it around that long, growing stale.

Mr. Raghavendra also sells saplings, which I plan to go over and buy sometime, and get my Stevia right off the plant!

This is the contact of SJ Herbals:-

S.J. Herbals And Nurseries
21, Sai Jyothi, 2nd Cross, Vidyanagar K. B. Halli Main Road

Bangalore-560 086, Karnataka, (India)
Phone : +(91)-(80)-23221514
Fax : +(91)-(80)-23221514
Mobile No. : +(91)-9448809476

contact Mr. Raghavendra, sjherbals@gmail.com, 9844444306
web site http://www.indiamart.com/sjherbals

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