Stevia, Sweeter than Sugar
“The herb sweeter than sugar”.
Stevia is hundreds of times sweeter than sucrose, making it an excellent low-calorie sugar substitute. Cooking with Stevia does require a learning curve, but since the advantages of reducing your sugar intake, as well as not using aspartame are so important, it is well worth the effort.
It is important to remember not to use too much, which will result in excessive sweetness and an aftertaste. Always start with the exact amount called for in the recipe, or even a little less.
Stevia is delicious in almost any recipe using fruit or dairy products, but can be challenging when used for baking.
Try growing Stevia yourself!
It can be grown in your garden or on your balcony and serves as an excellent point of conversation. When growing Stevia, start with a Sweet Valley transplant. Stevia is difficult to grow from seed and is grown best when a well established starter plant is used.
Remember that tender young Stevia are especially sensitive to low temperatures. Wait until the last chance of frost before planting outdoors. Stevia does not like to be wet and cold. Plant in full sun about 20 inches apart, as your plants should grow to a height of about 30 inches and a width of 18 – 24 inches.
The Care and Feeding of Stevia
Plants do best in rich soil. They have shallow roots, so it is a good idea to add compost if the soil in your area is sandy. Frequent light watering is recommended during the summer months.
Gathering the Leaves…
Harvest as late as possible, since the cool temperatures intensify the sweetness of the plants. Cut off the branches and strip the leaves from the branch. Dry in a sunny location preferably on a screen for good air circulation. Crush leaves by hand or in a grinder.