Natural Stevia in Malaysia
The stevia debate has rumbled on for many years and the opinion about the product has swayed from it being acceptable to it being banned in this country for many years. Now it’s back on the market, readily available and is being recommended and used as a sugar replacement.
When I was in Malaysia a couple of years ago on a guided tour of a Spice farm, I was really interested to see stevia growing, and to taste it in its natural leaf form. I was able to briefly chat to the botanist who gave us our guided tour and found what she had to say quite interesting. I asked her what she thought of the stevia now being sold in the crystallised form in the supermarkets and she was adamant that it was not a good way to consume the product. She felt that because of its processing, it was no longer a natural product. She suggested that I buy a packet of dried stevia leaves and used these to produce a sweetened infusion whenever I needed to replace sugar in a recipe. An infusion is made just like making a cup of tea but with stevia leaves. These are then removed before the liquid is used.
I came home with a packet of dried stevia leaves to do just that and I have since looked on the internet and they are available from wholefood sources either in leaf form or ground leaves. I do still have a packet of stevia crystals in the cupboard and do use an occasional half teaspoon when a little extra sweetness is needed and a liquid isn’t suitable. However It’s not something that I would include regularly. What is worrying now is that so many recipes in books and magazines include stevia or other alternative sweeteners to replace sugar in like for like quantities in recipes. Not only is this not a good idea as we don’t know the long term implications of these foods but also we are not curbing our insatiably sweet tooth.