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Stevia rebaudiana

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Zone 10

Stevia rebaudiana is a tropical perennial shrub and herb whose leaves are said to be 200 times sweeter than cane sugar. We have read claims of 400 times sweeter

When guests taste our plant above, we suggest people take a small leaf.  After two or three chews, the sensation of sweetness sweeps mightily through your mouth intensifying every second.  The sense of sweetness continues to build until you are forced to agree and say, "it's amazing."

Stevia is being sold in extract form as a 'natural' food, for those with weight concerns and others who have blood sugar disorders or yeast intolerance (Candida).  Natural leaves are said to not break down (taste) when heated, so can be used in foods that are baked or cooked

If your newspaper has Dear Pharmacist written by Suzy Cohen, you read on 03-27-2003 her answer to stevia as a useful and safe ingredient,

"Stevia has been used as a sweetener for centuries, and it's completely natural and safe, unlike most artificial sweeteners sold in supermarkets.

Found at health food stores (liquid, powder or tablet forms), the herb is not only safe for diabetics, but actually helpful, because it triggers the release of insulin and may temporarily stabilize blood glucose.  Interestingly, stevia can also lower blood pressure slightly."

Native to Brazil and NE Paraguay, local Guarani Indians are said to have used stevia leaves for centuries in drinks and medicines

Stevia is now cultivated in Thailand, Mexico, Japan, China, Israel, South Korea and Canada. Outside of tropical climates, Stevia is grown as an annual

The Japanese use stevia in commercial food products, but as of this writing our puke face USDA bureaucrats have not approved stevia as a sweetener, only as a dietary supplement

An editorial aside:

Have you ever thought "why" do we need or want the USDA regulating what is "legal food" anyhow?  Why do we continue to tolerate buildings full of nameless faceless bureaucrats who have no power except to say "NO" to free American citizens who have no need of such invasive regulation?

The USDA ruse of "it's not OK until
we say so" is totally absurd

Hey, just tell me what has been positively PROVEN poisonous or otherwise dangerous and exactly why and how. Otherwise, stay the hell out of my kitchen

The sweet sensation is astounding but there is no sugar, no calories, no carbohydrates and no fat.  In Brazil, it is recommended for diabetics.  It is the concentration of glycosides that account for its sweetness.   There are said to be 150-300 species of stevia

In the wild, stevia rebaudiana grows on the edges of marshes or in grassland communities on soils with shallow water tables.   These soils are typically acid sands or mucks.  Our experience is stevia is thirsty and limps immediately when not held moist

So plant your stevia in an acid soil mix and plan on providing consistent water. stevia shrub grows on short brittle semi-woody stems to about 3 feet tall in South Florida.  Good moisture and good drainage are preferred for best growth in full sun.   Pick leaves as desired for use in drinks or food.  Watch out for the USDA with loaded guns and riot gear if you do

Stevia produces attractive small flowers during cool months in South Florida.  Stevia blooms are white, small, fragrant and grown in clusters of 2-6 each