stevia plant: photo by gourmetsleuth.com
SteviaThe common name for stevia rebaudiana, an herb used as a replacement for sugar or other non-nutritionative sweeteners. The resulting extract from the stevia plant is roughly ten times sweeter than sugar.
Article by: Barbara Bowman
Where Stevia Comes From
The stevia plant is native to the Amambay mountain range in Paraguay, South America and was used by the native people in a tea-like beverage as well as for medicinal purposes. It was finally brought to the attention U.S. government in 1918 by a botanist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Use of the product is widespread in various parts of the world including South America, China, and Japan. It is far less popular in the U.S. due to a well-entrenched existing sugar industry. Efforts to gain a foothold in the U.S. has been routinely blocked until December, 2008 when Stevia became approved by the FDA for use as a food additive.
Since we first posted this article on the web back in 2000 the stevia scene has grown from being found only in the occasional heath food store to nationwide notoriety. New brands are appearing on the market almost daily. One of the first is TruVia a new sugar substitute product. We have also seen flavored gelatins and even stevia-laced chewing gum.
Stevia is remarkably easy to grow. We have been seeing plants at local Farmer's Markets. The plant produces slightly serrated leaves on long stems. The white flowers are small and delicate. The leaves are very sweet to the taste. You can also purchase stevia seeds. They are so small and fine they almost float away but germinate readily. The plant shown in the photograph was grown from our seed. Because the plants tend to hybridize the plant you grow from seed may look different from the plant you find at the local nursery.
Sugar To Stevia Conversion Chart
From "The Stevia Cookbook," copyright 1999 Ray Sahelian and Donna Gates
|Sugar amount||Equivalent Stevia powdered extract||Equivalent Stevia liquid concentrate|
|1 cup||1 teaspoon||1 teaspoon|
|1 tablespoon||1/4 teaspoon||6 - 9 drops|
|1 teaspoon||1 pinch to 1/16 teaspoon||2- 4 drops|
|If you are seriously interested in converting from sugar to stevia in some of your recipes, we suggest you purchase one of the cookbooks available for additional guidance. Additionally check the website for a specfic products conversions as they will vary.|