Stevia is a natural herb that is 30 to 40 times sweeter than table sugar. Stevia can be rather pricey, so if you enjoy its sweetening flavor you may want to grow and dry your own. Stevia leaves can be used fresh by dropping a leaf into a container of lemonade or cup of tea, but drying stevia leaves allows you keep your harvest for later use. While you can harvest leaves any time, to get the most sweetness from your plant, "SteviaNet," an online resource from Body Ecology that provides information on stevia growing, recommends harvesting when temperatures begin to cool off and days become shorter, as this is when the active ingredient in stevia, "stevioside," tends to peak. There is more than one way to dry stevia leaves, one of which will work best for you.
Hang Drying Method
Cut the stevia branch with your pruning shears, leaving at least 4 to 5 inches of stem. The best time to cut your stevia branches is late morning, after the dew has dried off the leaves.
Gather the branch ends together, and tie them into a bundle by wrapping string around the cut ends. The fewer branches you have per bundle, the faster your stevia will dry. Try not to bundle more than three to five branches together at once.
Hang the bundle in a warm, dry and airy location. The stevia should be dry enough to crumble within seven to ten days.
Pull the dry stevia leaves off the branches, and crumble them into a glass jar. Place two or three leaves in your hand and vigorously rub your palms together over the open jar.
Seal the jar, and store it in a dark cupboard.
Screen Drying Method
Cut the stevia branch, leaving at least 4 to 5 inches of stem.
Lay a window screen on a counter top or table, and put a layer of paper toweling on it.
Remove the leaves from the stevia branches, and lay them in a single layer on the paper toweling.
Cover with another layer of toweling, and let them sit and dry for 10 to 14 days. You can test to see if the leaves are dry by trying to crumble one between your fingers.
Crumble the leaves by rubbing them vigorously between the palms of your hand, and place the crumbled stevia in a glass jar. Store the jar in a dark cupboard.
About this Author
A freelance writer for more than 12 years, Traci Vandermark has written extensively on health and fitness topics. She is a student of health, fitness and nutrition at the International Institute Of Holistic Healing, certified by the American Association of Nutritional Consultants. Her articles have appeared in Catskill Country Magazine, The Lookout Magazine, Capper's, Birds and Blooms and Country Discoveries, to name a few.