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Stevia: Naturally Sweet Recipes

The sweetest of herbs.

| December/January 1997

  • Stevia, nature’s sweet secret, unfurls new leaves in pairs at the stem tip.
  • Spindly, soft green stevia is adaptable to many warm-climate growing conditions.
    Photograph by Mark Turner
  • Monster Cookie Balls, Wonder Pumpkin Pie, and Carob Brownies make a mound of sweets with very little sugar.
    Photograph by Joe Coca
  • Stevia, nature’s sweet secret, unfurls new leaves in pairs at the stem tip.

Stevia Recipes:

Discover for yourself how sweet it is. The taste of stevia is not identical to that of sugar, but it is pleasing with a wide variety of foods. Here are some nutritious and satisfying treats that owe their sweet taste to stevia.

• Monster Cookie Balls
• Wonder Pumpkin Pie with Stevia
• Green Smoothie
• Oatmeal Apple Muffins
• Carob Brownies 

From the highlands of Paraguay comes a sweet little secret: Stevia rebaudiana, whose leaves are the sweetest natural product known. Far sweeter than sugar, stevia has virtually no calories, and unlike sugar, it doesn’t raise blood-sugar levels or promote tooth decay. In the United States, after bitter controversy in recent years, the plant is now becoming more ­widely available, but people in other parts of the world have long appreciated its extraordinary sweetness.

S. rebaudiana, a member of the aster family (Compositae), is a small perennial shrub native to Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina. Indians of the Guarani tribe appear to have used the leaves as a sweetener since pre-Columbian times, but it was not until 1887 that a South American natural scientist “discovered” it.

Originally placed in the genus Eupatorium, the plant was reassigned to Stevia in 1905. More than 80 species of stevia are known to grow wild in North America and another 200 in South America, but of these, only S. rebaudiana and another species, now extinct, have possessed the intense natural sweetness.

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