Monday, May 17, 2010

STEVIA, a natural sugar substitute

The photo above is of the original stevia plant my friend Betty gave me.

STEVIA is a natural and organic sugar substitute. The plant looks like mint, but has no fragrance.  I have several pots growing now from that original plant.

Stevia leaf is sweeter than sugar, so you need much less in recipes. You can use the leaves of a stevia plant in your garden to make your own stevia liquid sweetener drops. While using whole, dried stevia leaves off of a plant to create homemade sweetener drops will not be as strong as the powdered stevia sugar substitutes sold in health food stores, but making your own stevia drops will be much cheaper.  You can get a clean old baby medicine bottle and dropper, or get one at the pharmacy. I prefer to use a glass bottle/dropper since I want to use the least amount of plastic for anything.

Anyway, the stevia plant will yield more sweet taste and at least you know if you grow it yourself, it is definately organic and fresh.

You will only need a a few homemade drops to sweeten your tea, coffee or cereal. The level of sweetness from your stevia plant will depend upon when you harvest the leaves, the age of the plant and the amount of drying time. Pick leaves early in the morning. Take the leaves and wash them. Dry the leaves on a clean towel, and then pound them or put them inbetween two sheets of  kraft paper, and use  a rolling pin to crush the leaves.

I tried it in making "Green Ice Tea" by crushing the leaves, and then adding water until the desired sweetness was achieved. This would be about 3 tablespoons of Stevia leaves, crushed and then add about 1/4 cup water, then taste it if the sweetness is sufficiently strong. I also boil 6 cups of water, add 4 green tea sachets, and cool it down in a glass pitcher, then add lemon juice, about 1/4 cup, the Stevia water and ice. Strain out any crushed leaves , and I have a cool, refreshing drink to sip all day! This green ice tea tastes just the same as the commercial, "LIPTON" brand green ice tea.

Aspartame, is being sold mainly under the brand called "  EQUAL." This is a chemical that gives soda , juice and many other confectionaries the taste of sweetness, without actually adding on any calories. Ants being feed aspartame will die because it can dupe the brain to believe it is actually sugar, and drive the body to crave more and more sugar.

There are  people on a sugar restricted diet who are taking EQUAL in larger amounts each time they use it.  who are overweight don't even lose weight if they seek to lower their intake of sugar calories. I know, I am one of those who started with 1 sachet of EQUAL per cup of coffee and now use 2 sachets. My husband started with 1 sachet and is using 4 to sweeten his coffee. Another brand, SLENDA, has the same effect.

STEVIA on the other hand is a natural herb that when crushed and powdered, actually tastes like sugar but is in fact helpful in regulating the craving for sugar.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Eggplants Love Summer!

The one crop that will grow in a drought, even during El Nino, is the eggplant. This vegetable is easy to plant and can be grown in pots. Their leaves spread out like solar panels to capture the heat of the day and take the energy into these lovely purple fruit. When ripened, eggplants are a glossy, purple, and have a waxy texture. Do not pick if there are patches of green. Eggplants are edible but like tomatoes, the leaves , stems and roots are actually considered toxic.

 My family enjoys my "Eggplant Lasagne" without any noodles or pasta. You first make  a vegetable sauce made from crushed tomatoes, garlic, onions, celery and carrots. Just slice the eggplant and put in layers of mozzarella cheese, drizzle olive oil in between each layer and the insert vegetable sauce, top with bread crumbs and it makes a great side dish or main dish for summer.

Eggplant is an excellent source of  fiber. Full of vitamins and minerals, eggplant is high in the B1, B6 and potassium nutrients. Beneficial minerals we don't get from other foods in our main diet, are trace elements of copper, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, niacin, and folic acid.

Organically grown eggplants are also a source of a special natural anti-biotic that can root out radicals in our system.  This vegetable has enzymes that protect us from accumulating plaque in our arteries, and bad LDL -cholesterol.

Eating eggplant as part of a meal either as a side dish or main dish benefits diabetics by naturally regulating insulin levels.  Individuals who have high blood pressure should include 1 serving of eggplants every week to help keep their arteries healthy . Eggplant is also beneficial for those who are anemic and for cancer patients to inhibit the spread of the disease to the liver.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

MAY 2010, A little rain gives my plants a boost!

Today, I woke to the scent of my jasmine bush all blooming after three days of rain that broke the dry spell of the El Nino climate on the Philippines.

This jasmine bush, "Brunfelsia paneaflora" or its common name  "Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow" that describes the phenomenonal change in colors of the  flowers that bloom white the first day, then turns purple the 2nd day, and yellow the 3rd day. This plant  has few leaves at this time but the flowers are profusely spread out all over the bush. 

I call this the "Rain Puff Ball Lilly" that is dormant all year round. The bulbs break through the dry, parched earth right before the rainy season begins. The hurricane season usually starts in late May and ends in early November in the Philippines. You can observe the little shoots coming through the ground.

 Dendrobiums are starting to flower as the air cools off after the rain.

A Few Days Of Rain, May 8, 2010

 These are the "before EL NINO PHOTOS" and the "AFTER THE FEW DAYS OF RAIN" in May 2010


These are the photos of my farm a few weeks ago between April 4 and April 30, 2010. 

The larger trees like eucalyptus, mahogany and coconut have deep roots that can draw water from the acquifers underground.



Heavy downpour lasts about an hour

Monsoon Rains Arrive Late







I view this conversion of agricultural land and the government selling watershed rainforest to commercial, industrial and residential land, as evil. This is greed, plain and simple.

Urban developers are in this for the money. They could care less about Cavite. Whatever they do to carve out thousands of hectares into subdivisions and urban centers is depleting the lowlands of fresh water, and driving the rain towards the ocean instead of filling up the estuaries that supply the people with fresh fish, and flooding the rice fields that bring us our staple food.

Think of all those subdivisions around Tagaytay ridge, imagine how it will be once Lake Taal fills up with their pollution. This beautiful canyon is full of people all wanting to have that view of the volcano right outside the bedroom or living room windows. I wonder if one day when the lake turns into a putrid mess like all our rivers are beginning to look like will those who bought land there and built houses will find another pristine area to destroy?

One one side are brightly painted new houses. Across from those houses is the Biluso river and then the last remnants of the rainforest area which surrounds my farm. At the rate the property values are going up, I will need at least P6,000,000 pesos or $125,000 to buy the forest near my farm so I can preserve the habitat of the few native birds that live there.One person needs oxygen supplied by three large trees, or 1,000 square meters of green grass and shrubery, but birds and other animals need thousands of hectares of land to establish a breeding site where they can nest and raise their young.

Trees, and plants are treated as "decor" items for real estate developers who have decimated 500 hectares of forest lands next to my farm ( see photo above). The sales brochures of the neighboring subdivision have computer generated images and sketches of how this subdivision developer has planted a "park" of green trees. I went inside to visit the "park" and counted 5 mango trees on a hill. Eventually should anyone buy more land in the subdivision near my farm, they might find that the day this subdivision is full of houses, pollution will come from homes throwing out plastic, debris, chemical detergents, poisons, and human wastes into the rivers.   Developers  knows this would be "greenwashed" by claiming to retain a few trees for these parks or "green zone," or putting in a golf course. Urban developers do not tell buyers, that they had to kill the big trees, and poison the roots of hardwood trees, and keep golf courses green by spraying herbicides on the grass to keep the weeds from growing. If they don't, they know their investments will be useless. Big rainforest trees for a subdivision developer means blocked drainage pipes and ripped up cemented roads. Trees, and shrubs are a nuisance to a developer who will run down an entire forest with a bulldozer to get the lanscape "sculpted" to be as flat as possible, or level with the roads they will pave to be able sell lots to buyers.

I still pray I will win the lottery and buy the property being sold next door. This is the last section of rainforest left and I need $125,000 to make an offer to acquire this. My dream is to set up a botanical garden, and a small animal preserve/shelter with indigenous species of birds and  my collection of tropical plants for children to come and view the beauty of the natural flora and fauna that is being destroyed by the millions of hectares every day all over the Philippines.