Aloe vera has been used for centuries both as a medicine and as a food. These days, it is associated with topical treatments for burns and other skin ailments but is gradually gaining recognition for its value as a nutritious food. It can be tricky to prepare, so follow the tips below to get the most benefit from it.
Do learn to identify the edible parts of aloe vera.
You must understand what you can eat and what you should avoid. The skin and the clear inner gel are both edible. Use the skin in salads, stir-fried dishes, or on its own as a snack. Its firm, crunchy texture makes it great to use in dips and as a cracker substitute. Use the gel in smoothies and cocktails.
The part that you shouldn’t eat is the yellow liquid between the gel and the skin. The yellow stuff is called the latex. In small amounts, aloe very latex can cause diarrhea and general intestinal discomfort; if you consume too much of it, the latex can cause kidney failure and may even be fatal.
Do prepare aloe vera correctly.
Start by cutting off a few of the leaves by slicing into them at the plant’s base. The next step is to slice off the outer edges of the leaves. You will want to soak the leaves so that the toxic latex can bleed out through the openings. Submerge the leaves in clean water for about 10 minutes. The water should turn yellowish as the latex seeps out. Remove the leaves, change the water and submerge them again. Once most of the latex has been removed from the plant, you can peel it.
The best option here is to use a vegetable peeler to pull the gel from the skin. If you don’t have a peeler, a sharp knife will do but be careful. You don’t need to use a back-and-forth cutting motion as the knife should simply glide through the soft gel.
Once you remove the gel, blend or crush it to make a drink. Alternatively, you can just soak it and drink the water. The second option might be the better one if you don’t like aloe vera’s slimy texture.
Do store aloe correctly.
Fresh aloe vera is best but if you don’t have that option, another good alternative is to store prepared aloe vera in the fridge. It can last for up to a week if you keep it cool enough. You can also freeze the whole leaf or the gel. You can freeze the gel in an ice cube trays so that you can thaw out exactly the amount that you need. Thaw aloe gel completely before using.
Do add other ingredients to aloe vera to improve its flavor.
Even people who like aloe won’t necessarily argue that it has a great flavor. If you want something other than the mildly bitter and herbaceous notes, add honey or use it in a smoothie with sweet fruits.
Don’t assume that your garden aloe is edible.
Not all species of aloe are suitable for eating. For example, many of the aloe vera relatives that you see being used as household plants may actually be poisonous. Some of them may be safe for topical use but not for ingestion. To be confident that your aloe vera is edible, purchase it at a grocery store or health food store.