Stevia Rebaundiana Bertoni is a useful herb that few gardeners grow. The leaves of the plant are dried and used as a non-chemical, sugar substitute that has zero calories and is safe for diabetics.
A member of the aster plant family, there are 200 varieties of Stevia that are related to lettuce and marigolds. S. Rebaundiana Bertoni is the only variety used as a sweetener.
Some people say fresh Stevia leaves have a licorice flavor. The dried leaves are ten times sweeter than sugar and are added to tea and made into extracts. A concentrated syrup is made from dried leaves and water.
Stevia leaves and stevioside extract tablets and powder are also available. When the sweet quality is harvested from the leaves, one half teaspoon of the extract is 300 times sweeter than refined sugar.
Unfortunately, some producers use stems in the manufacturing process, leaving a bitter taste when the Stevia is used in foods.
White powder Stevia is concentrated stevioside. It is so strong that producers add fillers such as milk lactose or maltodextrin from corn, rice or tapioca to reduce the potency.
Powdered steviosides are dissolved in water, alcohol or glycerin and sold as a clear product. In Japan, stevioside is mixed with fruit and grain based erythritol. The product is calorie free, promotes dental health and is safe for diabetics.
Coca-Cola and Cargill developed their own Stevia based product called Truvia. Pepsi developed Pure Via for its zero calorie beverage market. Dr. Pepper’s zero calorie drinks use Reb A as the nickname for their Stevia extract.