The Yellow Farmhouse Garden

December 16, 2006

Honeyleaf aka Stevia

Filed under: Herbs — bob @ 4:53 pm

I know we discussed herbs just a couple of blogs ago, but since I re-potted about 50, four inch, root bound pots of Stevia into six inch pots today, I thought it might be a fun idea to write a little bit about it.

For those of you who are not familiar with Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana), it is an herb just starting to gain attention by the general public in this country. In South America, however, it is commonly used as a natural sweetener. Cane sugar is also a natural sweetener but Stevia is up to 300 times sweeter and has no calories!
I was introduced to Stevia about 6 years ago when I obtained some seeds from Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Maine. It is a quite startling sensation to pick a green leaf off of a potted plant and taste that overwhelming sweetness. In its raw state right off of the plant, I think it has a slightly “green” taste along with the sweetness. After a little preparation, the green taste disappears.
You can purchase Stevia at most health food stores as a powder or liquid, or you can grow your own from seed. It is a tender plant, much like a tomato, so if you grow it outside, treat it like an annual. I find that in the greenhouse it tends to attract whitefly (a common greenhouse pest) more readily than other plants. It commonly grows from 18″ to 30″ tall. You would think that it would look like something really special, but it is a “plain Jane” in the garden and could easily be mistaken for a weed.
Japan and Brazil have regulations banning artificial sweeteners. So instead, the soft drink bottlers in those countries use Stevia for their diet pop. We are talking about companies such as Coke and Pepsi as well as the local brands.

In case you were wondering about the title, Honeyleaf is just another name for Stevia.

Those 50 or so pots of Honeyleaf will eventually be given away as gifts. Those folks will use the leaves to sweeten drinks ( 1 Tbs dry = 1 cup sugar) or brew a cup of Stevia tea.

Gotta go and check on my sweeties,

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