With all the dietary issues around here, finding a sweetener that is affordable, natural and something I can work with is a challenge. Stevia has been around for a while but has had a bad rap because at first the FDA wouldn't approve it(they finally did in winter of 2008) and also because of the bitter aftertaste. It's also difficult to work with because you need so little to sweeten something so you have to adjust your recipes to compensate for the lack of dry ingredients when you replace sugar. It won't caramelize either so you don't always get the effect you want. Despite all this, I find it quite useful. Its doesn't alter your blood sugar and it doesn't have any GMO dangers. Its safe for my allergy-ridden son AND I can grow it myself.
I admit I have attempted to grow it in the past. Previous varieties that I have grown from seed have been quite bitter and the plants have not done well here in NC. Last year I found a new variety called Crazy Sweet Stevia from Richter's Herbs that is doing very well. I recently started my first jar of extract from the very healthy plants and hope to bring several of the plants in for the winter so I will have a good start in the spring. Stevia can be started from seed or propagated from existing plants. Since our growing season is shorter, I plan to pot for indoors and propagate this winter and put out several plants next spring. I will let you know how that goes.