The stevia plant has received a lot of attention for its sweet-flavored leaves that can serve as a no-calorie alternative to sugar. Although stevia is a plant that prefers warm tropical temperatures, it also grows in milder areas as an annual. Stevia will only grow to be about 18 inches high, so it will fit nicely in your sunny herb garden. Harvest the fresh leaves as needed, or dry the stevia leaves for a long-lasting kitchen staple.
Pick green leaves to use immediately in a cup of tea. Drop the leaf directly into the cup of hot tea and stir. One leaf will sufficiently sweeten one cup of tea. Use three or four leaves when brewing a pot of tea for iced tea. The sweetness will be even more pronounced when the liquid has cooled.
Chop up green leaves to add to a fresh garden salad or as a sweetener for a salad dressing. Stevia works well in strongly flavored foods in which the slight bitterness of the leaf will be counterbalanced with another stronger flavor, letting the sweetness come through. Simply drop one or two leaves into a blender with your vinegar, oil and herbs and blend.
Place stevia leaves on a tray and set into a warm (170 degrees F) oven or dehydrator to dry. When the leaves are crisp and dry, let them cool and store them in an airtight container. Crush these leaves in a spice grinder and use the powder to sweeten any dish.
Wash and dry 1 cup of stevia leaves and place in a 1-quart jar. Fill the jar with vodka, cover and let sit for a week in a cool and dark place. Strain out the leaves and use the resulting sweet vodka in mixed drinks.
Add julienned stevia leaves to cooked carrots or other vegetables for an extra sweet flavor. Stevia leaves also work well in sweet and sour soup, sweet quickbreads like pumpkin or cranberry bread, or yeast breads.