A few months ago Marisa and I had the opportunity to go to a Holistic conference and learn about a variety of different subjects from raw food cooking, to how to use natural sweeteners, to natural pain management techniques and herbal cures. I wanted to discuss one of the natural sweeteners that I learned about.
My Dad was a farmer while I was growing up. During the winter he would work in a gas station to supplement his farm income. My Mom worked in some of the country gas stations as well while I grew up. Needless to say, when I would visit them they would let me pick out some candy at the store. I have loved candy and sweets ever since. 5th Avenues and chewy sweet tarts are my favorite. It might surprise most of you to know (sarcasm intended) that these types of treats are full of unnatural ingredients and empty calories. I still eat them once in a while but I have tried to find other ways to get my sweet tooth fix.
Stevia is a natural sweetener found in the leaf of the Stevia herb. Stevia originates in Paraguay and Brazil where the natives call it sweet herb or honey leaf. The leaves of a Stevia plant are about 15 times as sweet as sugar, and the extract is 250 to 300 times as sweet as an equivalent amount of sugar.
We are relatively new to Stevia in our household but we use it in two different ways. We bought a stevia plant at the farmer's market. It is growing on the patio and when we make green smoothies for breakfast, we throw some of the leaves in to act as a sweetener.
I also bought a bottle of the Now Foods Stevia extract that you see pictured to the right. It is in powder form and stevia is the only ingredient. I bought it at my local health food store. When looking at the stevia products check the ingredients because there are still quite a few that have additives and ingredients that I don't recognize. We add it to herbal tea, oatmeal, some of the herbal sodas that we make, and even some of the sauces I use to put on my meat when grilling. We haven't figured out how to use it as a sugar substitute in baking.
Do you use Stevia in your recipes? If so let us know how you use it.