Thursday, October 16, 2008

Growing and Using Stevia

Looking for an all natural, calorie and carb free way to sweeten drinks, desserts and other foods? The answer may be as close as your local nursery or the garden department of your local home store. Many garden shops are now carrying Stevia plants.

Stevia Rebaudiana is a small perennial shrub which belongs to the Chrysanthemum family. This plant is the only known species that has the ability to sweeten. In its natural herb form Stevia is 10 to 15 times sweeter than granulated sugar. Take a taste of a bit of a leaf and you'll be amazed at the sweet flavor.

Of course, if you don't want to grow it, Stevia also comes in liquid and powdered forms. Trader Joe's stores, if you're lucky enough to have one nearby, carries powdered Stevia in packets (handy for packing in purses), or in a spoonable container.

Stevia is carb and calorie free, and since it does not affect blood sugar levels, is a good choice for diabetics. Stable at high temperatures, Stevia can also be used in cooking and baking. And that's not all -- studies have shown that Stevia can inhibit the formation of cavities and dental plaque (which is why it's frequently used in toothpastes).

Growing Stevia
Growing Stevia from seed can be troublesome, so it's easier to buy small plants from a nursery.

Young Stevia plants are sensitive to cold temperatures, so wait until danger of frost has safely passed and soil temperature range in a 50 and 60°F range.

Plant the perennials about 18 inches apart in rich soil. Adding a mulch or compost is advised. Plant grow to about 30 inches in height and 18 inches in width. Feeder roots remain near the soil surface and are sensitive to excessive moisture so be sure soil drains well. Bring plants inside before the first fall frost.

The Controversy of Stevia
So why haven't you heard much about this product? Why is it not used on soft drinks, ice creams, and baked goods like it is in countries around the world? Because the artificial sweetener lobby is so strong, it has managed to keep labeling laws in place that require Stevia to be only marketed as a nutritional supplement. Yet every nutritionist and dietician I spoke with recommended Stevia heartily while suggesting their clients avoid artificial sweeteners. Our government at work. Click here for detailed information about the controversy.

Shop for Stevia and Stevia Cookbooks
Click here to Shop for Stevia and Stevia cookbooks at

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