What is Stevia rebaudiana (Stevia), and what can this extraordinarily sweet-tasting herb do for you?Stevia was first discovered by Europeans when Spanish Conquistadors sent word to Spain that natives of South America used Sweet leaf to sweeten herbal teas.
Stevia rebaudiana is a herbaceous perennial, which is normally used as a natural herbal sweetener. This is a plant where the native Guarani have used Sweet leaf for over 1500 years to sweeten otherwise unpalatable medicinal drinks; particularly for brewing yerba mate, a popular herbal tea in Brazil and Paraguay. It is a short day plant, growing up to 1.5Ft in the wild and flowering from January to March in the southern hemisphere.
Sweet leaf grows naturally on infertile, sandy acid soils with shallow water tables. This is normally in areas like the edge of mashes and grassland communities. While the herb’s native locale may make it appear somewhat exotic, it has proved to be quite adaptable and capable of being cultivated in climate zones as diverse as Florida and southern Canada. The dried leaves can be ground and used as a sweetener or soaked in water and the liquid used in making preserves. The powdered leaves are also added to herb teas. The leaves are sometimes chewed by those wishing to reduce their sugar intake. The leaves can also be cooked and eaten as a vegetable.
Besides the intensely sweet glycosides (Steviosides , Rebaudiosides and a Dulcoside) , various studies have found the leaf to contain proteins, fibers, carbohydrates, iron, phosphorus, calcium, potassium, sodium, magnesium, zinc, rutin (a flavionoid), true vitamin A, Vitamin C and an oil which contains 53 other constituents. Researches were also conducted to determine the effects of stevioside present in sweet honey leaf in the treatment of hypertension. The result showed that Sweet leaf herb has the potential to reduce high blood pressure. Doctors in Paraguay have long been prescribing stevia for their diabetic and hypoglycemic patients. This is because it has properties which help stabilize their blood sugar. When used in chewing gum, foods and beverages, Stevia leaf actually helps prevent cavities from developing. This is because it slows down the growth of bacteria in the mouth which causes plaque build up.
Today, Sweet leaf of Paraguay is used as a sugar substitute in homes as well as manufacturing for a variety of beverages, desserts, confectionaries and condiments, including herbal teas, soft drinks, sorbets, jelly, candy, pastry, pickles and yogurt. The list of its uses keeps growing, as this humble herb progressively replaces the more expensive, less nutritious regular sugar cane. Because it is quite easy to propagate we can grow Sweet leaf plants on windowsills, balconies, in gardens. You might want to consider trying to grow Sweet leaf in your garden this year – you won’t be disappointed!
3 large mashed bananas
1/2 cup coconut cream (or milk)
1/2 cup shredded coconut
2 cups flour
1 cup baking Stevia
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a loaf pan with nonstick spray, or grease lightly.
Mash up bananas in a large bowl. Add coconut milk and eggs. Whisk well to combine. Add vanilla extract and combine. Sift Stevia powder, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. Add to mixing bowl. Whisk together until just combined. Pour batter into loaf pan and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until bread is brown and passes the toothpick test.