Stevia leaves can be made into powder or syrup and used to sweeten tea, coffee, oatmeal, or other foods that need a touch of extra sweetness (without the calories or glucose of sugar!) Stevia powder can be used in baked goods, but it will not caramelize or crystalize like sugar. For substitutions, 1/8 tsp. of stevia leaf powder is equal to 1 tsp. of granulated sugar. Having grown a beautiful, lush stevia plant, or maybe many plants, you are now ready to preserve the harvest!
- The best flavor (highest stevioside content) is right before the plant flowers. Harvest in the morning after dew has dried, when plants are refreshed and hydrated.
- Cut entire stems. Strip the leaves from the stems.
- If you don't have a food dehydrator, place the leaves in a single layer on a mesh surface or airy fabric like cheesecloth pulled tight. Place the drying leaves in a dark, dry place with good air circulation until leaves are crisp to the touch*.
- Using a food processor, grind leaves to a fine powder.
- Store the stevia powder in an airtight container out of direct sunlight.
*The greatest sweetness is retained when leaves are dried quickly--in less than a day. Thoroughly dried leaves will keep for a couple of years in an airtight jar. Leaves ground into powder will have a shorter shelf life.
- Put 1 cup of warm water and 1/4 cup of stevia powder in an airtight container and allow it to sit at room temperature for 24 hours.
- Strain through a very fine sieve or paper filter.
- If desired, you can cook the strained mixture on low heat until reduced to a concentrated syrup.
The syrup will store many months, if kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator.