Posted by: gdevi | May 31, 2012

Stevia and Lantana

Today SueAnn, Nic and I went to the Amish nursery to check out their plants. Lots of wonderful plants, even Lantana. I was very happy to find Lantana. In India, Lantana grows wild everywhere; when we were kids on our way to school we had to walk up this tiny hill and that many years ago there were these wide open fields on either side of the road a big cricket pitch on one side where the boys played with lantana growing wild all over.  The whole place is filled with flats now. Terrible. Anyway, Appu and I and his friend Tom would stop by the lantana bushes and pick the ripe black berries to snack on. I always had lantana in my garden when we lived in Texas, but could never find them in PA till now. So I got a couple of lantana plants today; I don’t think they are cold hardy for our zone, so they will probably die once the ground frosts over. Then we found this plant, Stevia. SueAnn had heard of the plant, but Nic and I hadn’t.  The leaves are sweeter than sugar actually. 300 times sweeter, the tag said. It was funny. We were telling each other, hey, try this leaf. Try one more. Some people chew cacao leaf; we chewed Stevia. I got a couple of Stevia as well. Apparently it is not cold hardy, so I will grow it inside. I read about it when I came home. The Guarani Indians in Paraguay used to chew it for sweetness for thousands of years, and it is a recent member of the herb family in North America, Europe and Asia. Apparently it has a very low glycemic index and so can be used as a sugar substitute for folks with blood sugar problems. I don’t have a sweet tooth at all, but I think I will use it to make iced tea or lemonade or salads or something. It is a pretty plant, isn’t it?

It was so lovely at the farm with Nic and SueAnn. Everytime I go to the Amish farm I get this incredible yearning to buy a small farm and be a full-time vegetable and flower farmer. I think at heart I am a farmer turned by circumstance into a teacher.  I often ask myself if I would miss teaching. I think some days I will–I like English, I like my students, I like my colleagues, and I like the university.  But really I am a person who likes to keep to myself mostly, so I think I would be fine if I were to spend the rest of my life as a farmer. I would be very happy growing vegetables and flowers. Some day. Some day.


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