Health Benefits of Stevia and How to Grow this Herb

Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) plant

Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) plant (Photo: Dennis Rito)

Last Saturday, I encountered someone interested about stevia. He bought the growing kit with a stevia plant we are selling  at the 6th International Ayurveda Convention at Shaw Mall, Mandaluyong City. A number of questions from him challenged me. I grow stevia myself from cuttings and propagating them is also quite a challenge; and with that,  I felt the need to share these bits of information about stevia with the rest of you.

What is Stevia?

Stevia (Stevia Rebudiana) is a sweet-leaf, perennial herb that has originated in South America.

It is 40 times sweeter than artificial sweeteners.

Other common names:honey leaf plant, sweet chrysanthemum, sweetleaf stevia, sugarleaf…etc.

What makes Stevia sweet?

It contains several glycoside compounds. These are the stevioside, steviolbioside, rebaudiosides A-E, and dulcoside.

How the taste is like?

Stevia has a mild, bitter, licorice-flavored aftertaste.(Rodales Organic Life)

Is Stevia just a plain sweetener?

No, it has many health benefits too. While it contains no calories and carbohydrates, it also helps control blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure.

Stevia can also reduce the risk of Pancreatic cancer by 23% according to a study Source: American Journal of Epidemiology.

Stevia plant has also many sterols and antioxidant compounds like triterpenes, flavonoids, and tannins.

How Stevia is used?

You can sweeten your drinks by using fresh leaves, or dried leaves.

For fresh leaves, take a three to five leaves, wash them clean, and add them  to your morning hot drinks as your natural sweetener. While first taste test for some find it slightly different with a bitter after taste, for me I like its sweet taste blended with fresh tarragon leaves on my coffee.

With dried leaves, it should be crushed finely or blended. Steep them in your hot cup of drinks or on a tea pot. You may drain the leaves to enjoy your naturally-sweetened drinks.

It can also be used in the form of an extract. I have no experience doing this yet. Maybe I can share it with you in the future once I get my hands on it.

Growing Stevia

Where to grow Stevia?

Well-drained plots or pots will do.

What soil Stevia plant needs?

It needs sandy loam soil and grows best on soil that ranges from 6.7 to 7.2 pH.

What part of Stevia to grow and how?

Stevia is grown commonly from cuttings. It can also grow from seeds.

Stevia is quite challenging to grow compared to basil and other herbs. It needs extra effort and care to grow them and to last it longer.

Here are the things to consider when growing them through cuttings:

Select the right cuttings. Stem must not be too old nor too young. The color of the stem must not be brown; best is brownish green.

Cut that part of the stem and plant at least two of them in a pot with the soil and vermicast.

Place them in a shaded area when newly planted in pots. Avoid moving them from one place to another si as not to disturb them from rooting.

If indoor, you can position it near the window or any area where there is sunlight coming in. It is ok to expose them to moderate sun two weeks after when it has already rooted. During hot summer, it favors a shady area. Water it regularly, seeing it does not dry out of moisture.

If you need to grow from seeds, you have to sow them on any seed germinating soil medium. You can sow them on seed trays or if you want it cheaper, paper cups, or egg trays will do. Place them under the shady area. Use spray when watering them. After a week or two, seeds should spring to life. Fertilize them with vermicasts; or you can also use organic inputs like Fermented Fish Amino Acid once a week to aid their growth.

Once fully grown, stevia plant can reach 16 inches to 24 inches in height depending on the soil used, the climate, and how you take care of it. Just pay attention to the branches when moving them, they are surprisingly brittle! They can break easily leaving them with few leaves. That for sure you don’t want to happen to your stevia plant!

How many stevia should we plant for a year supply of dried leaves?

It depends on how much you use and how often you use it. But more or less, 3-5 garden pots of stevia is commonly recommended.

That’s all folks for now.

Happy planting!

On the uses of stevia, you can read it via a previous article “Vegetable Orange Salad: A Natural Medicine Recipe


Dinimonyohang Santol: The Devilish Hot Santol Recipe

Dinimonyong Santol

Wondered why its called Dinimonyohang Santol?

Gigi Morris brought this spicy hot dish at the Chilli Heads Fest in Quezon City early this month. While Bobby, Gigi’s son, named it “Devil Santol” ( a mock of another family recipe called Deviled Egg); one of the member of the Chili Heads Philippines coined it “Dinimonyohang Santol”. It was just a part of the fun and sometimes, chili is also called “demonyo” by some of the chili lovers.

This recipe is famous in the Bicol region and chili is one of the ingredients which make the dish appetizing.

Gigi said: ”It was the “devilish hot” version of our otherwise zesty and spicy santol. That dish is so popular – last week alone, we served them at 4 different events and they are always the bestseller!

I am not a chef – my background is product development in fashion design. Now that I am a farm owner – that has been my approach in cooking. What is available? Then create something. The santol though has been a family recipe – being from Bicol, as long as there is coconut milk. It is so abundant at this time of the year – so why not use it up?”

In remembrance of her brother Vannie, who would cook this Bicolano dish for their family when he was still alive, she included the recipe in their cookbook, “What Happens When the Farmers Meet the Chefs.”

Here is the recipe:

Ginataang Santol (A.K.A. Devil Santol or Dinimonyohang Santol) with Pork


1 kilo santol
1/2 kilo pork; cut into small cubes
2 cups coconut milk ( second extract)
1 cup coconut milk (1st extract or kakang gata)
1 medium onion; peeled and sliced
1 cup green djanggo sili; sliced diagonally
Salt and pepper
1tbsp bagoong
3 cloves of garlic; minced


  1. Wash santol, peel and cut into halves, and remove seeds.
  2. Blanch santol in hot boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Plunge into iced water then drain.
  3. Grate santol using cheese grater or mandoline; squeeze the juice out, and set aside.
  4. In a deep pan, pour the second extract of coconut milk; add pork, onion, bagoong and garlic. Bring to boil, stir and cook for few minutes.
  5. Add the grated santol and green djanggo sili. Cook until done and once liquid has almost evaporated.
  6. Add the first extract of coconut milk, simmer for few minutes.
  7. Serve hot with steamed rice.

An Evening with Boracay’s Dos Mestizos

It was one Boracay’s cool breezy evening when we walked down an alley past a police post at Station 3. There were some bikini-clad beach goers rushing to and fro the white sandy beach. Along that narrow alley was a rustic restaurant with a well-lit deli at the left, and a bar at one side.

Dos Mestizos at night (Photo: Dennis Rito)

Dos Mestizos at night (Photo: Dennis Rito)

Before we knew it, Andre’, the restaurant Manager excitedly showed us inside. The whole place was dimly lighted and crowded. There was also a band playing a familiar Spanish beat and the place was abuzz with festive yet romantic ambiance.

André, then set us at a table in the main dining area. We chatted briefly, and he talked animatedly fast in his American English accent! In a few minutes, there came the bread and the dips, the Paella, the sangria, olives and their ensalada. In between was André’s enticing description for each Spanish dish.

Gusto y gustos Deli at Dos Mestizos (Photo: Dennis Rito)

Gusto y gustos Deli at Dos Mestizos (Photo: Dennis Rito)

While having dinner, somebody in blue denim jeans and black shirt, was approaching our table. He looked simple but elegant for a man his age with silvery hair. André introduced us to him. That was our first close encounter with Chef Binggoy Remedios – the owner of Dos Mestizos.

So! Here’s the food that we have had at Dos Mestizos:

Whole Wheat Bread and Dips

Bread & dips (Photo:

Bread & dips (Photo:

We missed a shot of this crunchy whole wheat bread together with the dips. Sometimes, the sight alone of food could steal your focus in an untimely manner.:)

Anyway, their freshly baked bread from their Gusto y Gustos Deli went well with their tasty tomato and nutty pesto dips. It disappeared as soon as it was served!

Paella de Mariscos

Paella de Mariscos or Fresh Seafood Paella (Photo: Dennis Rito)

Paella de Mariscos or Fresh Seafood Paella (Photo: Dennis Rito)

This is such a bounty! This is one of their main dish – the Paella de Mariscos loaded with rich toppings of fresh shrimps, mussels, squids and clams. Green peas and beans, eggs and limes colored it well for an appetite and that feathery dill herb with its sweet aromatic flavor is always perfect with any seafood. And yes, for a hungry tummy, this is the right way to go!


Sangria (Photo: Dos Mestizos)

Sangria (Photo: Dos Mestizos)

Now here comes Sangria – their best seller. At first, the taste was not that special for me but after several sips, that well-blended fruity taste on red wine lingered. It’s a yummy drink, and a must-try!

Aceitunas Verdes Alinadas

Aceitunas Verdes Alinadas (Photo: Dennis Rito)

Aceitunas Verdes Alinadas (Photo: Dennis Rito)

This plate of green olives bathed in olive oil is actually one of the resto’s tapas. Tapas is a Spanish term for any light snacks or appetizers that are usually eaten with a drink or wine. If you love the nutty taste of green olives in generous garlic and herbs, this one is for you!

Ensalada de Tomate

Ensalada de Tomate (Photo: Dennis Rito)

Ensalada de Tomate (Photo: Dennis Rito)

Ensalada de Tomate is purely vegan. The sliced tomatoes are drizzled with olive oil, and sprinkled with freshly ground black peppers. See those lemon wedges? Lemon juice squeezed over that sweet, plump tomatoes with spicy arugulas is sure a medley of flavors.

If you have diet restrictions, Dos Mestizos can customize meals according to your needs and preference. Ensalada de Tomate is just one of the many choices of healthy Spanish food recipes for the health-conscious diners.

To sum it up, Dos Mestizos do have a unique homey ambience and they have a variety of authentic Spanish food options. On top of it, they certainly know how to make their guests happy. No wonder why most of them keep coming back for more.

To Dos Mestizos, big thanks for that truly wonderful dining experience!

Dos Mestizos
Remedios Street, Sitio Manggayad
Boracay Island, Malay 5608
Aklan, Philippines
Tel No. (036) 288 5786
Email :
Website :

Read our conversations with Binggoy Remedios

Top 10 Unusual Plants and Food Finds at the Evia Producers Market

Have you encountered a Roselle calyx that gave a drink a magenta tint? How about a berry that fool your taste buds to make sour kalamansi fruit tastes sweet?

I am sharing with you some natural farm products that somehow amazed me and maybe new to you as I checked them out last Saturday, Jan. 10, 2014 at Evia’s weekend market.

Here they are:

1. Roselle Flowers

Calyces of Roselle

Calyces of Roselle

The magenta colored calyces of Roselle flowers (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is an attention-getter among the Evia Producers Market stalls which came all the way from the Moca Farm of Gigi Morris in Batangas. Roselle’s scientific name is Hibiscus sabdariffa, a native to Africa but also grows well here in tropical Philippines.

Good for dishes like Sinigang?

Mercy, staff of Gigi told me that Roselle is also used as a sour condiment for Sinigang. This is an alternative for the usual tamarind fruit turning your plain Sinigang into a magenta – colored one!

Roselle has its many uses. The calyces of roselle are cooked into jams, jellies and syrups; used as food colorant in condiments and pastries; and are used to make drinks and teas.

It’s the main ingredient in Gigi Morris’ “Magenta cocktail” and is one of the ingredients used by the Chefs in their cakes, pastries and other recipes found in the “What Happens When the Farmers Meet the Chefs” cookbook.

The health benefits: lowers blood pressure and bad cholesterol level, high in antioxidants, anti-cancer, and strengthen the immune system.

2. The Magic Berry 

Magic Berry (synsepalum dulcifucum) Photo:

Magic Berry (synsepalum dulcifucum) Photo:

This is a berry that fools your taste buds to make any sour fruit tastes sweet. Unbelievable? Well, the plant’s berry has this ability to enhance a sour taste and is being recommended to cancer patients suffering from appetite loss. The berry is eaten an hour before eating sour food to take effect. This plant is a shrub and it bears button-like-sized berries.

According to the stall owner of Redberrytree Farm, its price is 800 pesos but at the Quezon City circle, its 1,000.

Read related articles regarding the magic berry in New York Times & Huffington Post.

3. The Blue Rice 

Blue Rice, left (Photo: Gigi Morris)

L-R: Blue Rice, Adobong carnejo (rabbit meat) sa dilaw (turmeric) & black rice. Cooked & plated by Maila Vilela-Toreja. (Photo: Gigi Morris)

Another one on display at Moca Farm stall is a casserole of Blue rice and a vegetarian native pig lechon to go with it. Aside from Blue rice, the flowers are also used as natural food colorant in pastries.

What made a Blue Rice blue?

Blue rice is cooked by adding fresh antioxidant-packed blue ternatea flowers. It tastes like plain cooked rice – not really a captivating taste, but having blue rice with antioxidants on your table is something to indulge in a healthy way and something you can talk about while eating.

Blue ternatea

Blue ternatea (Clitoria ternatea)

Health benefits: anti-oxidant and memory enhancer.



One recipe using this flower is the Blulalo by Chef Michael Bautista – of which the recipe’s name itself is familiar, and yet so unique – it could paint a smile on someone’s face.

4. Sarsaparilla


Sarsaparilla (Photo:

Want a Sarsi? Pick, crush and sniff a leaf of sarsaparilla and you’ll get that sarsi drinks’ smell on your nostrils. This plant is used to flavor root beers and soft drinks like Sarsi. One of the health benefits of sarsaparilla (aralia nudicaulis) is blood detoxification.

Aside from sarsaparilla, there’s still a the wide array of unusual plants, seeds and leaves for sale and that simply amazed me as I found them at the Rare Plants & Seeds stall.

5. The Green Tea Plant

Green Tea

Green Tea

Can we grow green tea plant here in the Philippines?
Yes, we can grow it here – even in pots! How to plant it is easy: just take a cutting and stick it right on a garden pot with soil of course and grow it with care. The lady in-charge the stall said it’s easy to propagate – that I have to find out myself with the newly bought potted green tea plant.

The health benefits of green tea? Many and it seemed that everybody knows that it’s anti-cancer, it aids digestion, helps improve metabolism and helps in losing weight.

6. Sunflower seeds for Planting

Sunflower Seeds (Photo: Mother Nature Network)

Sunflower Seeds (Photo: Mother Nature Network)

The sunflower seeds are not that unusual but one of the hard to find kind of seeds, and in case you don’t know yet, it has a brain enhancing benefits. It’s found at MoCa Farm’s stall on display.

7. Kesong Puti

Kesong Puti

Kesong Puti

Kesong puti resembles a slab of tofu in texture and appearance but upon tasting it with the bread and other fresh ingredients prepared by Chef Chel Galang, it gave out a creamy and mild cheesy taste.

8. Villela’s Coffee

Vilela's Coffee

Vilela’s Coffee

Spotted a Villela’s ground coffee pouch with freshly-roasted coffee beans meant to be brewed into perfection for a real coffee taste and aroma. You can’t go wrong with this coffee, Dennis and I had great drinking moments with it that we kept on wanting for more.

9. Ginger and Honey 

Want some cold remedy? Ginger tea never failed an expectation what a ginger tea could do to soothe your throat on that one cool, breezy day. Her honey products also provide an opportunity to costumers on having their family’s home needs and maybe remedy for cough and colds whenever they want to.

10. Gourmet Dulong and Artisanal Tuyo 

Artisanal Dulong (Photo: eHarvest)

Artisanal Dulong (Photo: eHarvest)

Found Gourmet Dulong an appetizing match for crackers. At 210 pesos for a 250 gm, I found it a little expensive but if you need a quick fix for a snack to enjoy, this one is a choice. You can have them in two flavors, regular and spicy.

Their famous Artisanal tuyo is also a warning! It’s addicting – as Chef Gene Gonzales had this gastronomic experience, thus for him a recommended product worth trying.

Other products at Evia include vegetables like lettuce, carrots cucumbers etc; a variety of herbs, heirloom seeds for planting, and other potted plants for your garden or farm needs. Mushrooms, kesong puti, natural raised chicken eggs and lechon are available; also beauty products, and even wooden furniture, and more!

For more information about their products, here is Evia Producers Market Info and contact numbers: Market

EVIA Lifestyle Center, Vista Mall, Daang Hari Las Piñas
Market Hours: Every Saturday at 7am to 2pm
Contact number: 0917 529 1477
FB Page:

The people behind the Evia Producers Market are the same people who published the cookbook “What Happens When the Farmers Meet the Chefs”.