The Q&A Archives: The Sweet Herb Stevia

Question: Could you please provide me with information regarding an Herb called Stevia. My local county extension office mentioned they had found this at our local nursery and that it is very sweet. I would like to try some but don't know if it is annual or perrenial, if it needs sun, shade or what the actual use could be.

Answer: Stevia can be used to sweeten drinks and foods, although it can be difficult to judge how much to use since it is so sweet. It is commonly sold as a white powder made from the leaves.

In cold northern areas, it's best grown as an annual, or you can pot up
plants to bring inside for use during the winter. In nature it grows on moist,
sandy streambanks and marshes, so in the garden, provide a well-drained
humusy-loam soil that is slightly acidic (6.0-6.5, which is good for most
garden vegetables). Transplants are slow to get going, but will take off in
midsummer. Harvest leaves before the plants flower, and dry them for
storage. A few days of strong sun should be enough to dry them well.

Plants can be purchased from herb specialists such as Richters Herbs, ph# 905/640-6677, web site Look for Stevia rebaudiana.

You might however be interested to know that during the 80`s Stevia enjoyed popularity as a natural
sweetener in a variety of products but in 1986, the FDA (United
States Food and Drug Administration) seized Stevia
inventories and in 1991 stated it was not suitable as a food
additive. It is, however, still available at Health Food Stores as a
dietary supplement. To be on the safe side, I would suggest you check with your
doctor before using Stevia in any form.

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