Stevia (commonly known as Sweetleaf) is a perennial that thrives outdoors in warmer zones (9 – 11) and flourishes as a sunny window houseplant in colder ones. The leaves of stevia are a much used substitute for sugar – said to be 30 times sweeter – and are typically either dried and ground, or plucked and used fresh.
We didn’t try baking with stevia (if you do and have a great protocol, leave a comment below!), but did make a few beverages which is probably the easiest way to enjoy the leaves of this plant. Keep in mind that fresh leaves are only about one-quarter as sweet as commercial super-concentrated stevia products.
We added a few whole leaves to both iced tea and lemonade, and the flavor was sweet, but sometimes had a trace of bitter aftertaste. We found that the best way to use stevia in beverages is to make a infusion of the leaves in either water or vodka. Here are two easy ways to make this infusion and a few ways to enjoy it.
Intriguing herb often grown as a houseplant, with deep green foliage and small white flowers in summer. Grow in full sun outdoors or indoors on a sunny windowstill. Do not overwater–wait until the top 2 – 3 in. of soil is dry. Can get leggy in a few years and will need to be replaced. Fast growing up to 24 in. tall and wide. Zone: 9 – 11
TWO FOOLPROOF METHODS FOR MAKING STEVIA INFUSIONS
Infusion Method One: Water-based syrup
This yields a thinner, but very sweet infusion that was very good in boozy drink such as mojitos.
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup of fresh, washed stevia leaves
- 1 cup of warm water
In a lidded glass jar, pour warm water over coarsely chopped stevia leaves. Cover and give it a good shake. Set in a cool location out of direct sun for 24 – 36 hours, strain the leaves, and then pour infused water into a clean jar. Cover and refrigerate.
Infusion Method Two: Vodka-based syrup
This yields a very sweet, slightly thicker and more syrupy consistency that we liked in lemonade and iced tea.
- 3/4 – 1 cup fresh, washed stevia leaves
- 1 cup vodka (any brand)
Coarsely chop washed, fresh leaves and place in a clean glass jar. Fill jar with vodka, making sure the leaves are completely covered. Cover jar tightly with lid and give it shake. Let steep for 48 hours in a cool location out of direct sun (to keep it nice and green). After 48 hours the mixed can get bitter so watch the clock.
Strain leaves from vodka, then put infused vodka into a small saucepan over low heat so that it warms but does not boil. This will remove the alcohol and concentrate the sweetness. Pour into a small, tightly-lidded bottle and store in the refrigerator-it will last for several months.
TWO RECIPES WE LOVED
Naturally Sweet Lemonade
- Juice of 3 – 4 freshly squeezed lemons (about 6 oz.)
- 1 quart fresh water
- 1/3 – 1/2 teaspoon of stevia liquid infusion (we liked the vodka based one–remember we cooked off the booze)
Mix all ingredients together in a large pitcher, chill and serve. Nice to garnish with a fresh stevia leaf or a few of the white stevia flowers.
Mojito Mania (with Stevia infusion)
- Fresh, washed, mint leaves (about 10 leaves)
- 1/2 of a lime cut into 2 wedges
- 3 drops of stevia infusion (add more to taste)
- 2 ounces of white rum
- Club Soda
In a tall glass or a cocktail shaker, muddle together lime, mint, and stevia liquid infusion. Add rum and shake well. Strain into a glass, fill with ice, and top off with club soda. Stir to combine, taste and adjust sweetness if needed.