Extracting Steviasides
Answered by: Inge Poot and Conrad Richter
Question from: Dyanne Scriver
Posted on: May 10, 1999

Where could I find a process to take out the sugars in the leaf of stevia, as a sideline business? I think I might be able to sell some of the stuff! You know, grow a plot of it maybe? The extracting process would have to be an organically approved method. I don’t like chemicals.

Steviasides are water soluble and I think you could soak it out or boil it with water. I would suggest you experiment with powdered leaves – no stems, as they are bitter.

I know they use propelenes etc. to extract flavour sometimes from the vanilla bean which I think may be unhealthy, so I’d like to stick to a healthy extraction process. Who should I talk to about this?

I think vanilla is extracted with alcohol and possibly water from the cured almost ripe seed pods – no nasty chemicals. You can also get the dried "beans" and extract the flavour yourself by boiling it in water.

Stevia has been grown commercially in Canada and is still under investigation as a potential cash crop. Early results suggest that it can be grown very successfully as an annual in areas such as southwestern Ontario. According to reports, Canadian grown stevia had among the highest steviasides content of any grown in the world.

A Canadian company, Royal Sweet International, developed and patented an extraction process that apparently removes the slight bitter component of stevia. However, this process has not been licensed to any other company as far as we know. Whether it would qualify as "organic" we cannot say because we do not have details of the process. It is entirely likely that you would have to develop your own extraction technique to meet organic standards.

The commercial possibilities of stevia were discussed at two of the Richters commercial herb growing conferences, the Second and the Third. The transcripts are available (see the online catalogue at http://www.richters.com for details).

Isn’t vanilla of the orchid family? Could I cross a vanilla bean with a cold hardy orchid and grow and sell Canadian Vanilla beans?

Unfortunately, none of the native hardy orchids are even remotely related to vanillas. I doubt very much that any could be crossed with vanilla. Maybe with gene transfer technology something could be done, but this is probably still 20 years in the future.

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