Saturday, 28 August 2010

Stevia, 3 x sweeter than sugar!!!





I first heard about Stevia 12 years ago. A Belgian professor (Jan Geuns)at the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, introduced Stevia in 1997 to the Benelux countries. Everyone was very enthusiastic about it, but not long after, the plant was banned as well as the products made of Stevia. There were rumours that it was banned because of the competition it would bring to the sugar industry and agriculture (sugar beet and sugar cane) Who knows? It took 13 years before the EU in 2009 allowed products derived from the Stevia plant to be sold. Just a week ago when I was at the chemist in Barjol, I saw a sweetener dispenser with tablets made from the Stevia plant, being sold at the counter.

Full name of the plant is Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni, Bertoni being the name of the botanist who first described it in 1899. The plant grows in the northern part of South America, especially in Paraguay and Brasil. The first Europeans who came across the plant were the Spanish conquestadors in the 15th century, they saw the Guaranay Indians using the leaves of the Stevia plant to sweeten their drinks.

So for a long time it was known that the leaves contained a very sweet substance, but science was not advanced enough to analyse the plant. In 1934 for the first time, chemists were able to crystallize the sweet substance (Stevioside) in the plant.

During the second World War there was a renewed interest in Stevia as there was a shortage of sugar beet for the sugar industry, but the knowledge to turn it into a industrial success was not available at the time.


In 1970 the Japanese put lots of restrictions on products containing artificial sugar. Because of these restrictions they started looking for alternatives and the interest in Stevia was rekindled. Nowadays they are the largest consumers of Stevia products in the world. The commercial production takes place in Paraguay, Uruguay, U.S., Israel, Thailand and China.

Why use Stevia:
It is a 100% natural product.
Stevioside (the sweet substance in the plant) contains no calories.
The leaves can be used in their natural form or can be dried and used.
As it is so much sweeter than sugar, only small quantities are necessary.
The plant is not toxic.
The leaves as well as the plants extracts can be cooked. It is stabile up to 200 degrees C.
There is no bitter after taste compared to the artificial sweeteners.
It is ideal for diabetics 2, as it seems to lower the blood sugar level, but not in someone whose sugar levels are normal. It seems to have a sugar regulating function.

How to look after a Stevia plant, After you've bought a Stevia plant, repot it with normal compost. Keep the soil moist, not wet. Cutting down the main stem, encourages new shoots to grow. The plant can be kept outside during the frost free months, in the winter the window sill in the kitchen or anywhere were the air is not too dry would be suitable. The plant can be harvested twice a year. When harvesting make sure you leave the bottom layer of leaves on the plant. Each plant produces approx. 20 grams of dried leaves per harvest, which is equivalent to 1 kg sugar. After the first harvest, repot the plant in a 25cm diameter pot, again with normal compost, add 1/2 a osmocote tablet. This is enough manure for 9 months.

When you are taking leaves of the stem, be careful not to damage the leaf buds. Add the leaves to your cup of tea or any dish that requires sugar. The leaves can be dried by putting them in a coffee filter bag, staple it closed and put it in the microwave at 800 watt for 2 mins. You can pulverise them in a coffee grinder.

Stevia products are sold in health shops or chemists, i.e. in syrup form, as crystallized sugar, in pill dispensers and in slimming products.

Bibliography: Professor Jan Geuns, Campuskrant, 29 January 1998



Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Conseils jardin pour le mois de septembre




Le manque de pluie de cet été ne nous aura pas surpris. Les réserves importantes des sols constituées avec l’eau d’hiver et de printemps ont, malgré cette sécheresse, permis aux végétaux bien en place d’être auto-suffisants une bonne partie de l’été. Et cela doit être une leçon à retenir pour la gestion des arrosages en cas de printemps sec.
Cette rentrée dans l’automne nous conduit à faire des plantations, des divisions de vivaces et des tailles de nettoyage.

L’arrosage : un sujet qui revient très souvent dans mes conseils mensuels parce qu'il est primordial de bien le gérer. Vous m’entendez répéter qu’il faut arroser copieusement et de manière espacée dans le temps. L’eau doit pénétrer en profondeur pour toutes les plantes pérennes qui ont un enracinement profond. Ce sont ces plantes qu’il faut choisir pour nos jardins provençaux. Pendant ce mois de septembre, à défaut de pluies conséquentes (minimum 50 mm répartis sur plus d’une 1h), il faut continuer les arrosages sur les arbres et arbustes surtout s’ils sont jeunes.

Au verger : les récoltes s’achèvent pour les pêchers et se poursuivent pour les poiriers et pommiers. Supprimez les pousses vigoureuses de l’année qui sont placées à l’intérieur de l’arbre.

Au potager : laissez les feuilles à vos tomates, aubergines et courgettes tant qu’elles ne jaunissent pas, ce sont elles qui nourrissent les fruits ! On ne peut plus tenter beaucoup de semis à cette époque, mais les espaces qui se libèrent devront être comblés par des semis d’engrais verts en optant pour la Phacélie ou la Moutarde qui rapidement occuperont le terrain, évitant le lessivage du sol tout en l’enrichissant.

Les plantes d’intérieures qui ont été sorties pour l’été peuvent encore rester dehors pour bénéficier de la douceur de ce mois de septembre.

Bouturez vos rosiers, hortensias, lauriers roses… pendant le début de ce mois. Prélevez du bois de l’année « semi-aoûté », ce qui veut dire des pousses qui ont porté des fleurs mais d’un diamètre inférieur à un crayon. Taillez sous une feuille que vous enlevez et laissez deux feuilles au dessus. Plantez dans un mélange équilibré terreau et sable, dans un pot mis dehors sous couvert d’un arbre.

Enfin, je vous conseille de stopper tous les apports d’engrais à la fin du mois, de tailler vos haies, buis et cyprès pyramide. Le gazon doit être tondu « haut » pour garder l’humidité du sol. Taillez les pousses vigoureuses des glycines.

Bon jardinage à tous……

Jean-Yves MEIGNEN
Jardinier de l'Abbaye de Valsaintes et de France bleu Vaucluse
Consultant à domicile
valsaintes

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Edible Flowers



There are quite a few flowers as you'll see below that can decorate and enhance the flavour of dishes and salads. In every season there are flowers to be used. The flowers of the culinary herbs are great to use for this purpose, the taste of the flower is often slightly stronger than the leaf. For example:

Basil (Ocimum basilicum), Beefsteak plant/Shiso (Perilla frutescens), Caraway (Carum carvi), Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium), Chives (Allium schoenoprasum), Cumin (Cuminum), Dill (Anethum graveolens), Giant Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), Lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla), Marjoram (Origanum vulgare), Mint varieties (Mentha ssp.), Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), Sage (Salvia officinalis), Savory (Satureja montana), Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus), Thyme (Thymus vulgaris), Wild Thyme/Creeping Thyme (Thymus serpyllum).

Other garden flowers, many of them herbs, that look very attractive and are tasty:

Borage (Borago officinalis), Courgette (Cucurbita pepo), Clover (Trifolium), Daisy (Bellis perennis), Dandalion (Taraxacum officinalis), Daylily (Hemerocallis), Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis), Fuchsia (Fuchsia), Hollyhock (Alcea Rosea), Honeysuckle (Lonicera), Horsemint (Monarda), Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis), Lavender(Lavender), Mallow (Malva sylvestris), Marigold (Calendula officinalis), Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus), Pelargonium/scented (Pelargonium ssp), Pansy (Viola), Poppy (Papaver), Rocket (Eruca vesicaria), Rose (Rosa ssp), Sunflower, flowers in August/seeds in September (Helianthus), Violet/sweet (Viola odorata).

Bibliograpy: Rustica

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