LJWorld.com weblogs Notes from John
Stevia, Sunflowers and Paraguay
http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Jan/07/IMG_0861.JPGStevia is about to be allowed to be used as a food additive in the United States says a recent article in the LJ World. What is Stevia?Stevia is a plant with leaves that taste like sugar and the extract is said to be 300 times sweeter than sugar. Some research indicates that it shows promise in treating high blood pressure and obesity. It was also banned as a food additive in the US from 1991 until now. We are still waiting final food additive approval. The banning of it is another story that is clouded in mystery. I suspect the sugar growers had something to do with it. Although it was available as a supplement for a long time. Try the Merc.Stevia is also a member of the sunflower family. I am not a botanist but that is what I am told. So here is an interesting connection. Kansas, the sunflower state, is partnered with Paraguay through the Partners of the Americas program. In the case of stevia Paraguay has been way ahead of the US for hundreds of years. The Guarani who predated the Europeans in Paraguay have long used Ka’ ahe’ê. That is ‘sweet herb’ in the Guarani language. Stevia is our word.The Guarani understood the health benefits of mate for a long time. They used it for heartburn and blood problems and to sweeten their yerba mate. Mate is another story. The consumption of mate is a treasured social ritual in Paraguay and other parts of South America. Yerba Mate is a tea that is sold in bulk like the package in the picture. It is placed in the cup along with stevia leaves (if you like your mate sweetened) and either cold or hot water is poured in (hot in the winter and cold in the summer). The result is sipped through the metal straw called a bombilla. Water for the mate is carried in a thermos bottle. This is a rather simplified description. There are lots of different ways of preparing mate.Paraguay is a hot in the summer, like Kansas, so drinking a lot of mate is a good way to stay hydrated. Paraguayan winters are relatively mild, unlike Kansas, so few houses have central heat. Mate with hot water is a great way to start a cold morning. There is also an entire social ritual for drinking mate in a group with hours of conversation, guitar playing and singing. It is a wonderful way to socialize. Kind of like coffee used to be in this country except local coffee houses have become solitary places with everyone plugged into a computer, media player or phone.If you see a KU student with a large thermos over their shoulder, it is probably a Paraguayan. Stop and say hi and welcome them to their partner state. They might invite you to share a mate.