Stevia leaves can be eaten fresh, put in teas and foods, dried, or made into extracts. I am making an extract as a healthy sweetening alternative! The leaves of the stevia plant have 30–45 times the sweetness of sucrose-or white sugar.
There are many species of Stevia, belonging to the same family as sunflowers. The one I am referring to here is commonly called sweetleaf, or just stevia. Its leaves are extremely sweet, extracts made from this plant can be up to 300x sweeter than white sugar. It is a natural and healthy alternative to processed sugars.
There are many companies creating stevia extracts, powders, and other sweeteners. But many of these so called stevia derivatives are far from “natural”. Probably the most well-known is Truvia-owned jointly by The Coca-Cola Company and Cargill. Stevia must go through 40-steps, be processed and combined with other ingredients to make Truvia. This white processed powder seems quite opposite from the green plants growing in my garden.
TIP: When purchasing stevia from a store make sure the ingredients are 100% pure stevia without any additional ingredients.
But! As always, to make sure you know what’s in it…make it yourself! Making your own stevia extract isn’t too difficult. This is a great article that clears up a bunch of the confusion on good vs. bad stevia.
I found the original instructions for making stevia extract at Common Sense Homesteading.
A friend gave me small stevia plants she found at a Farmer’s Market, just like any other herb could be purchased. You can also grow stevia from a seed. If you don’t have access to fresh stevia leaves you can sometimes find dried leaves at health food stores.
These are two of my four stevia plants in my garden. They are about 1-2 feet tall. (Sorry the background is terrible, just a sea of green!) Many people don’t know what to do with the leaves after they have grown their stevia plants. Making extract from fresh leaves is just one possibility! There are many other options, which I will explore throughout the summer. For now, here are my tips for extract making.
The extract should last up to three months in the fridge. A large number of leaves makes a very small amount of extract. The simmering boils off most of the alcohol leaving a thicker and very concentrated mixture. I used a coffee filter to strain this mixture into my bottle. A very small drop goes a loooong way, this extract is very sweet! I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m looking forward to using it in iced coffee!
I am going to try making an extract from dried leaves next time!