Stevia

stevia-350

About

The 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.

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.

World Wide Use

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 plant in groundGrowing Stevia

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.

Sugar To Stevia Conversion Chart

From "The Stevia Cookbook," copyright 1999 Ray Sahelian and Donna Gates 
 Sugar 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 specific products conversions as they will vary.

Fun Fact about Stevia

New Stevia Sources

  • TruVia - A new stevia sweetener product available in consumer packaging as well as an ingredient in commercially prepare foods and beverages. Site has recipes and info too.
  • BlueBunny - Makes of ice cream bars sweetened with TruVia stevia. 
  • PureVia - New on the scene, producer of stevia herbal sweetener.  No recipes on site at this time.

truvia stevia sweetener

Stevia Reviews

We tried a commonly available stevia powder and liquid product. Read our Stevia Reviews >>


author

Barbara Bowman graduated with degree in Foods and Nutrition from San Jose State University. As CEO of GourmetSleuth.com she spends most waking hours writing, cooking, eating, gardening and traveling.