Stevia (Stevia rebaudia) is a great addition to any Northland garden. Although the plant is of tropical South American origins, it grows well here. It is a perennial that dies back in Winter, but in my garden, regrows every spring. The plants can handle some frost, so most Northland sites are okay. In these situations the Stevia.net website recommends recommends cutting the plants back to 100mm of stem to set them up for next season’s growth.
Bees love the white flowers that appear in mid-Autumn.
Refined white stevioside, extracted from leaves is hundreds of times sweeter than sugar. The leaves contain about 10% stevioside. This level intensifies as the growing season progresses.
Remarkably, stevia not only is free from the downsides of sugar, it can also remediate some of the problems associated with sugar. This page from the Greenmedinfo website references studies that reveal the efficacy of stevia in treating type 1 and 2 diabetes, hypertension and other health issues. One study identifies anti-inflammatory and antitumor properties.
This article, advises that green leaf stevia is the best option. As products become more processed, there is more potential to reduce benefits, or to generate harm. The author ranks stevia as his third preference as a sweetener after raw honey and dates. There are some cautions about side effects from using stevia.
I use stevia in smoothies and salads. As I forage around the garden for salad ingredients, stevia is a favourite choice. The leaves have a slightly bitter after-taste when consumed alone, but in a salad they provide a sweet burst of flavour that really compliments the bitter flavours from salad greens.
This video explains the harvesting and drying process.