Stevia rebaudiana is is a low growing herbacious shrub native to subtropical regions of South America that has been used for centuries as a sweetener in food and teas. Known for it’s intense natural sweetness, stevia in raw form, such as a crushed leaf, has 30-45 times the natural sweetness of sucrose (table sugar) and when processed into common granular forms such as Truvia, may be 100 times as sweet as sugar.

Unfortunately, many people in the U.S. were unaware of stevia’s qualities as a sweetener because the FDA banned the use of stevia in the early 1990’s unless it was listed as a dietary supplement, until 2008. Of course Japan has been cultivating stevia for commercial use in food since 1970 so they could avoid carcinogenous sweeteners such as cyclamate and saccharin. I know what a great thing stevia is, and I am here to help educate people on the all-natural sweetener I use in my sugar-free jams.

First to dispell a myth. Word out there is that stevia is bitter or acrid and we all know when a new product gets bad press word spreads fast. Seems like a lot of folks experimented with sweetening thier morning coffee or tea with stevia and the result was a super-sweet, acrid taste, a.m., pre-caffeine. Instant mood de-hancer! We are all used to using measurements that fit sugar and chemical sugar substitutes that do not pertain to the super-sweet stevia. Because stevia is so sweet you only need a tiny amount in your food. Some people never got to that point of understanding stevia after thier bad a.m. experiences.

As a sweetener and a sugar substitute, stevia has a negligable effect on blood glucose, no calories, and so is extremely attractive to people on carbohydrate controlled diets, such as diabetics. Of course other sweeteners are available such as Splenda which are chemically manufactured and can cause digestive disorders and mild to severe allergic reactions in some people. These sweeteners may not be as economical as stevia, which is very reasonably priced.

Stevia is sold in several forms and readily available in common grocery stores. We have already talked about the powdered form which is sold under the brand name Truvia, Sweetleaf, PureVia, and ect. Also available is dehydrated organic, chopped green stevia leaf from many health food purveyors. Another organic form is liquid stevia that comes in tiny vials in a wide array of flavors. One drop of sweetner is all it takes for a cup of tea or coffee!

Stevia truly posesses a wonderful natural sweetness. I experimented for months with sweeteners before I had my stevia epiphany and tried that in my line of sugar-free jams. The best way to describe the flavor of my stevia jams is that the natural sweetness of the fruit is enhanced by a delicious, slightly sweet-carmely flavor while letting the full fruit flavor burst through. Enjoy!