The sweet stevia is originally from South America, the neighboring region between Brazil and Paraguay. There are over 240 species of documented stevia, but only Stevia rebaudiana is used as a sweetener.
The Stevia rebaudiana belongs to the Asteraceae family, is a perennial shrub that measures between 50 and 100 cm. The leaves are sessile, opposite, lanceolate and sawn board. The flowers are small, white and arranged in irregular summits.
The leaves of the plant are used as feed (sweetener) and can be marketed as dewatered sheet in the form of powder or liquid extract purified. The sheet is 250-300 times sweeter than sucrose (common table sugar). The glucosides which give it the sweetness were identified in 1931. The sweetness is due to stevioside and rebaudioside compounds.
Stevia is under the attention of people who need to control carbohydrates in food and diabetics. The body does not recognize the substance as a sugar and do not absorb.
Stevia is a subtropical plant (grown in Paraguay, Brazil, Colombia). When the plant is a tropical or subtropical environment, the bush life cycle is perennial. However, in other regions of the world (India, Italy), the plant reveals winter dormancy and resume growth the following spring (herbaceous perennial). In the colder latitudes (e.g. Canada) is grown as an annual crop of summer.
The plant does not scale well at low temperatures (difficulties in temperatures below 9 ° C) and short days. Long days favor the accumulation of steviosides.
The plant prefers soils preferably free texture Franco-arenes, whose pH varies between 5.5 and 7.5 (preferred but not restricted).
The plant is sensitive to waterlogging.
In Japan is used as a sweetener since 1971 (representing 40% of the market for sweeteners). Japan produces stevia and is the world’s largest consumer.
In the United States was authorized as a food additive in 2008.
In 2011 we authorized the consumption in the European Union.
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