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Stevia the Sweetener Herb
by Monica Resinger

While shopping for vegetable garden plants at our local home store last 
night, I was elated to find the sweetener herb Stevia! After we got home, I 
picked 
a leaf, took a nibble and was shocked at how sweet it really was. In an effort 
to learn a little more about this plant, I did a web search and will share 
with you what I learned. 

Stevia Rebaudiana is a small perennial shrub which belongs to the 
Chrysanthemum family. This plant is the only known species that has the ability 
to 
sweeten.
Stevia in its natural herb form is 10 to 15 times sweeter than granulated 
sugar. Here are some wonderful benefits of using Stevia:

~It's diabetic safe
~It's calorie free
~It does not adversely affect blood sugar
~It is non toxic
~Inhibits the formation of cavities and plaque
~It can be used for cooking

Growing it:
It's best to start with plants because it is difficult to grow from seed. 
Young Stevia plants are sensitive to low temperatures, so don't plant it out 
until danger of frost is gone and soil temperature is in the 50's or 60's. They 
should be planted 18 inches apart. They grow to about 30 inches tall and 18 
inches wide. It likes a rich soil and its feeder roots are near the soil 
surface, 
so adding a mulch of compost is a good idea. Stevia roots are sensitive to 
excessive moisture, so be sure the soil drains easily. It is a perennial, but 
the 
plant is sensitive to frost, so don't leave it outside through the fall and 
winter months if your area gets frosts. 

©, 2000, Monica Resinger

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