Stevia is native to South America where it has been used for centuries as a natural sweetener.
Stevia’s popularity has grown in other parts of the world in recent decades because it offers a calorie-free alternative to regular processed sugar and other sweeteners.
If you are looking to reduce sugar consumption for your family, this is one plant you’ll want to add to your herb garden.
Stevia Growing Tips & Facts
Stevia is native to tropical regions. As a result, it is an annual in most climates. It loves warm, humid weather, but needs good air circulation to stay healthy in those conditions. It loves a nice, sunny spot with a little afternoon shade in warmer areas.
Root rot is an issue for many culinary herbs, including stevia. It does not like its feet wet, so be sure to provide loose, well-drained soil for your plants. Raised beds and containers are perfect solutions if you have dense clay or other soil that does not drain well.
Tips for Using & Storing Stevia
Stevia is up to 15 times stronger than regular cane sugar, but the amount of sweetness varies depending on growing conditions and when the leaves are harvested. Start by adding very small amounts to your drinks and recipes until you find the right balance.
To harvest, clip stems or individual leaves as needed from your plants. Use leaves either fresh or dried. Dry cuttings outside, in a food dehydrator or in the oven at 150 degrees. Discard the bitter stems once the leaves are thoroughly dried. Crumble or grind the dried leaves into a powder with a coffee grinder or food processor and store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.
Fresh leaves are used to sweeten tea and other drinks. Powdered leaves can be used directly in recipes or to make extracts, tinctures or syrups that can be stored in a dark bottle in your refrigerator for 6 months to a year. When making any of these, do not use too high a heat because it can cause the stevia to become bitter.