What's On The Show Today?
SPICE IT UP
This next spice may have some people wondering as to how safe it is.
The reason is that the name suggests links with the underworld and drugs, but nothing could be further from the truth.
After all it’s there for all to see in the spice aisle of your supermarket, and is often seen as an ingredient in ready mix cakes.
What am I talking about?
Let’s find out all about it
Poppy seed is a beautifully culinary spice used in dishes of many countries.
Drugs are made from the latex of the poppy, however the seeds contain negligible amounts of any narcotic content.
The ones that Ian is talking about are the blue poppy seeds for your cakes, breads and sprinkling over pasta.
If you have any questions about poppy seeds, then why not email us firstname.lastname@example.org or write in to 2RRR PO Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675
Native to Paraguay and other tropical areas of the Americas, the stevia plant (Stevia rebaudiana) has leaves packed with super-sweet compounds that remain stable even after the leaves have been dried.
Stevia is a member of the chrysanthemum family and the Stevia leaves have been used to sweeten teas and other drinks throughout South America for centuries.
So why are Stevia leaves’ so sweet?
Because the leaves contain something called steviol glycosides.
Steviol glycosoides are high intensity natural sweeteners, 200-300 times sweeter than sugar.
The leaves of the stevia plant contain many different steviol glycosides and each one varies in sweetness and aftertaste.
So what does Stevia plant look like?
- Stevia is a small perennial shrub with lime green leaves that do best in a rich, loamy soil — the same kind that most of your plants in the garden like.
- Stevia is evergreen in temperate, sub-tropical and tropical climates, but in cold and arid districts, it’ll lose its leaves in Autumn.
- Stevia is native to semi-humid, sub-tropical climates where temperatures typically range from -6°C to 43°C.
- Stevia tolerates mild frost, but heavy frosts will kill the roots of the plant.
- Since the feeder roots tend to be quite near the surface add compost for extra nutrients if the soil in your area is sandy.
- Stevia plants also hate being water logged.
But, it really isn’t drought tolerant like a succulent or a cactus and won’t tolerate long term neglect.
During warm weather don’t forget to water it and if you’re going away for a few weeks put in a dripper system, otherwise you’ll lose your Stevia plant.
But don’t plant your Stevia in waterlogged soil and don’t overwater it.
Adding a layer of compost or your favourite mulch around your stevia plant so that the shallow feeder roots won’t dry out.
Stevia plants do best with fertilizers with a lower nitrogen content than the phosphorus or potassium content.
Which means the artificial fertiliser aren’t your best bet, but most organic fertilizers are because they release nitrogen slowly.
HINT: Stevia leaves have the most sweetness in autumn when temperatures are cooler and the days shorter.
Definitely the best time to pick those stevia leaves.
If your district is prone to frosts in Autumn, make sure you cover the Stevia plant for another few weeks’ growth and more sweetness.
How do you store Stevia leaves?
If you Stevia plant is big enough, the easiest technique is to cut the branches off with secauteurs before stripping the leaves.
TIP:As an extra bonus, you might also want to clip off the stem tips and add them to your harvest, because they have as much stevio-side as do the leaves.
- If you live in a mostly frost-free climate, your plants will probably cope with winter outside, as long as you don’t cut the branches too short (leaving about 10cms of stem at the base during pruning).
- These plants do last a few years in temperate and warmer climates.
- In cool temperate districts, it might be a good idea to take cuttings that you’ll use for next year’s crop.
- Cuttings need to be rooted before planting, using either commercial rooting hormones or a natural base like honey.
- Stevia seed is apparently very tricky to germinate, and the cutting method is your best option.
I should mention that the stevioside content is only 12% in the leaves you grow compared with the 80-90% that commercially extracted stevia has.
It’s still had a decent amount of sweetness all the same.
So you’ve picked the leaves now you need to dry them.
As with drying all herbs you can hang your bunch of leaves upside down in a warm dry place.
Otherwise, on a moderately warm 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.)
If you have a home dehydrator use that instead.
Finally crush the leaves either by hand, in a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle that you use for spices and herbs.
The dried leaves last indefinitely!
If you add two or three leaves added whole or powdered, that’s enough to sweeten a cup of tea or coffee.
HOT TIP: Another way is to 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.
Why are they good for you?
Stevia is a natural sweetener that has zero calories and isn't metabolised by the body.
Stevia isn’t suitable for everything in cooking but you can use it to sweeten drinks, fruits, salad dressings, stewed fruit, yogurt and most creamy desserts.
The processed Stevia that you buy in the shops has been stripped of all the natural goodness that Stevia contains, so it’s better to grow your own Stevia.
THAT WAS YOUR VEGETABLE HERO FOR TODAY
PLANT OF THE WEEK
Flowers on this tree are so spectacular that you’ll be wondering why you’ve never planted it in your garden.
Not only that, it’s easy to grow, is a small tree and is quite hardy.
But maybe you have one in your garden, and you’ve had it for years.
So instead you’re the envy of neighbours all around you but they’ve been either too afraid to ask you what it is or have been trying to sneak cuttings.
Let’s find out about this plant.
I'm talking with Karen Smith, editor of Hort Journal www.hortjournal.com.au and Jeremy Critchley, The Green Gallery wholesale nursery owner. www.thegreengallery.com.au
There’s quite a few other varieties of crabapples to choose from with enticing names like Sugar Tyme, Showtime, Royal Raindrops and Golden Raindrops.
The bonus is even though it’s a small ornamental tree, you get these crab apples and if you’re into masterchef or other cooking shows, you’ll be wanting to make crab apple jelly to use on your cooking creations.