File this week’s edition of Making Groceries under slightly obscure.
First it was saccharine (Sweet & Low). Then aspartame (Equal, Nutrasweet). Then sucralose (Slenda). The newest in artificial sweeteners is Truvia. I haven’t a clue how to make most of these sweeteners, as I did not major in chemistry, but the commercial to Truvia gave me a clue. This company claims (and don’t they all?) that their sweetener is all natural, coming from the stevia plant. The mention of stevia caught my attention because I had heard about it on a PBS program. It’s a culinary herb that is 200 times sweeter than sugar cane. Many years ago I was given a tin of herbal tea which always tasted like it had sugar in it. I loved it, but could never understand its sweetness. Now I am certain it must have had some stevia in it.
When I was planting my herb garden this year, I stumbled across a stevia plant at the nursery. I ate a leaf and, sure enough, it was remarkably sweet. I bought the plant and it survived my semi-neglectful care. I’ve used it to garnish fruit salads and desserts in place of mint. Once it grew big enough, I harvested a few tall springs and made my own sweetener.
The Bottom Line
This powder is indeed very sweet and just a pinch is needed. It does have a strong herbal quality, so that is either wonderful or disgusting, depending on how you use it. It reminds me a lot of the Japanese macha, the green tea used in tea ceremony, not the everyday drinking tea called ocha. I will use it to sweeten teas or an occasional coffee. Perhaps I could sprinkle it on a simple custard if I wanted that herbaceous quality.
It’s not fully functional as a sugar substitute, but wonderful as an occasional sugar alternative, especially if you like sweet teas. For me, I’ll keep my plant alive and harvest the leaves occasionally, but I’ll keep buying sugar too. I don’t have the need to gobble copious amounts of sweeteners everyday, so I won’t be buying Truvia, which sells for $3.49 for 40 packets. My plant cost $1.89 and it’s still going strong. Ground stevia is a delicious specialty ingredient and foodies should grow it and have some fun.