Stevia may be the best-kept secret for natural, healthy sweeteners. It has no calories and is safe for diabetics.
Stevia is 10 times sweeter tasting than sugar. In fact, only ¼ of a teaspoon of commercial stevia powder is needed to sweeten a gallon pitcher of tea.
Stevia can be purchased from health food stores in liquid and powder form. The refined powder is white and the unrefined is green.
Stevia can be grown in a container or planted in the flowerbed outdoors. Because of its sweet taste, insects don’t generally eat Stevia plants.
Keys to Growing Stevia:
- Plant starter plant in a container or bed which drains well.
- Stevia needs 3 to 4 hours of sunlight daily.
- Stevia is sensitive to freezing temperatures.
- Cuttings can be easily rooted and wintered indoors and replanted outside in spring after frost.
Harvesting and Using Stevia Leaves:
To release the sweetener in the plant leaves, you’ll need to add it to hot water. When boiling tea, add a few stevia leaves to the pot. The boiling water will release the sweetener from the leaves into your tea. Then, strain the tea bags and leaves from the tea while pouring into a pitcher.
Powdered stevia should be added to hot beverages and stirred to dissolve.
In the fall, harvest as late as possible, but before the first frost to capture the leaves at their sweetest point.
Stevia leaves should be picked and dried between two screens under a full day’s sun. Then grind the leaves in a coffee grinder to make your own stevia powder.
If you prefer, liquid stevia extract can be made at home by adding one cup of warm water to ¼ c. freshly ground stevia leaves. Allow to steep 24 hrs, then refrigerate. Strain and use as desired.