Manor Farm Herbs
Manor Farm
Fringford
Bicester
Oxfordshire OX27 8DP

Stevia (sweet leaf)

Stevia rebaudiana

Height:
Up to 35cm untrimmed
Suitable for:
Rich soil in a warm environment. Ideal for container growing. Protect from frost.
Stevia (sweet leaf): Stevia rebaudiana

Known as 'sweet leaf', Stevia is used in many parts of the world as a natural sweetener. It has been used by the native Indians in Paraguay and Brazil for many centuries. In Canada, the US and Japan legislation for sale of the plants is different to Europe: here we can only sell the plant as an ornamental not as a culinary herb as it is not yet approved for human consumption by the EU.

Stevia is processed commercially to extract and purify the sweetening glycosides which can be up to 250 – 300 times sweeter than sucrose (sugar). The EU regulations in 2011 have allowed its use in only certain food products. You can find it in yoghurts, soft drinks and as a sugar/ Stevia mix from Tate and Lyle.

Stevia plants are perennial but very tender and susceptible to cold temperatures. They grow well in pots and containers, a 25 – 30 cm container would be ideal, so they can spend the summer months outside on the patio before returning to the shelter of the house in autumn. The herb produces lots of upright stems with oval, bright green leaves and, if left untrimmed, white flowers at the tips of each stem. Plant in a rich, well draining compost: in all but the mildest areas of the UK we would recommend growing in containers in a nice sheltered spot for the best foliage. Keep moist but not overwet throughout the summer, and grow under dryer conditions once back under cover for the winter months.

In the US, herb growers have devised various ways of using the sweetening properties of Stevia. Ensure that the plant does not flower as this reduces the sweetening glycoside content.

  • The leaves can be dried and ground and used for
    a gentle sweet taste.
  • The fresh leaves can be chopped and crushed and then steeped in warm water for 12 hours to give
    a stronger sweeter taste.
  • Cover the chopped, crushed leaves with strong alcohol such as vodka. Leave overnight, then add 200ml water and simmer until the alcohol has boiled off. This method extracts
    the sweetest taste.

We do need to stress that, whilst this herb is sold for culinary use in many other countries, we can at present only sell it to you as an ornamental not for culinary use.