A natural, calorie-free sweetener approximately 200 to 300 times as sweet as sugar? Sounds too good to be true, but it’s not — it’s stevia. This ultra-sweet plant originated in South America, but it’s been used in many countries for hundreds of years as a natural sweetener. Using stevia in place of sugar can cut calories and may keep your blood glucose level more stable. Whether you’re diabetic or just looking for a natural alternative to white sugar, saccharin or aspartame, stevia is the best choice.
Some of the Most Recommended Uses for the Whole Stevia Leaf:
- Use fresh stevia leaves as a sweetener in beverages, such as tea and lemonade, or in sauces. A few fresh stevia and mint leaves make a refreshing herbal tea when steeped in a cup of boiling water. Add fresh stevia leaves to beverages or foods as a sweet, edible garnish. Although the fresh leaves are less sweet than dried leaves, they’re still much sweeter than sugar. Taste-test your beverage before serving to ensure you don’t over-sweeten your drink.
- Use dry stevia leaves to make a powdered sweetener. Bundle and hang fresh stevia plant stems upside down in a warm, dry location until the leaves are thoroughly dry, then strip the leaves from the stems. Fill a blender, food processor or coffee grinder to half full with dry leaves and process at high speed for a few seconds. Store the powdered sweetener in an airtight container. Use the powder in recipes that call for a sweetener, but make adjustments in the amount used due to its dense sweetness. A general rule of thumb is that 2 tablespoons of stevia powder equals 1 cup of sugar.
- Use dry stevia leaves to make a syrup for sweetening beverages, sauces or other syrups. Add one cup of warm water to one-quarter cup of fresh, finely crushed stevia leaves. Put the mixture in an airtight container and allow it to set for 24 hours before straining the leaves from the mixture. If desired, you can cook the strained mixture on low heat, reducing it to more concentrated syrup. The syrup should last for several years, if kept in an airtight container in your refrigerator.