Stevia is a plant that is native to South America, and its sweetness is reputed to be 100 times more potent than that of refined sugar. Although the plant typically grows in warm climates, it can be successfully grown throughout the United States and all the way into southern Canada. Stevia leaves and stems can be harvested from homegrown plants, dried, crushed and then used just like sugar to sweeten a range of foods.
Wait until fall to harvest stevia leaves. The plant sends more natural plant sugars into its leaves and the tips of its stems when the nights are cooler and the days are shorter.
Pluck the leaves from the stems and pinch out the tips of the stems. Place both leaves and stems in a bucket as you harvest them.
Tip the leaves and stems from the bucket into a colander, and place the colander in the bottom of a sink. Run cold water over the leaves and stems to wash them.
Spread a section of newspaper onto a flat surface and dump the damp leaves and stems from the colander onto the newspaper. Spread the leaves and stems out to air-dry.
Arrange the stems and leaves on the racks of a food dryer. Turn on the dehydrator and run it until the leaves and stems are dry and brittle.
Place the leaves and stems in a mortar and pestle and crush them until they are a consistency ranging from pepper flakes to fine powder. Use stevia leaves anytime you would normally use granulated sugar.