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.
Our Stevia plant is one of our favorite garden novelty herbs. We always off a leaf for guests to taste to see if they might guess what it is. It is really fun and easy to grow. It is perennial so it dies down in the winter and comes back up in the spring. The plant is very tolerant of dry conditions and imperfect soil. It is best to underwater rather than over water.
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.