Everyone is probably aware the small aloe plants you may have in your home are good for soothing burns, especially sunburns, but there is so much more to aloe than that. Aloe plants are edible succulents that originated in tropical climates. The aloe from small plants can be used in the home as a burn relief, but also as a make-up primer, a moisturizer, make-up remover and to sooth an irritated scalp.
The aloe plants usually harvested for food or drink are much larger than the houseplant version, and, in fact, the leaves can be several feet long. They can usually be found in Asian markets, Latin American groceries and natural food stores.
Aloe vera juice is made by processing the entire aloe vera leaf, filtering and removing impurities and then mixing it with citrus juice. It has become a popular nutritional supplement, and to include it in a diet plan, people typically add it to smoothies or shakes.
The medicinal properties of aloe are well-established, but the nutritional values of aloe are something that is just beginning to be explored. It contains fiber and a lot of liquid, making it great for digestion and hydration. It also has important vitamins and minerals like vitamins B, C, E and folic acid. It contains vitamin B12 as well, which makes it great for vegans and vegetarians. If you decide that you’d like to try adding aloe to your food or drink, check with your doctor to find out if it’s a good idea for you.
If you go the liquid route, make sure you buy the processed and purified versions of the juice. Unfiltered (still green) aloe liquid will contain a compound that is a known laxative and will lead to some tummy troubles. No one wants that. If you decide to attempt cooking with aloe, you will want to make sure you remove all of the outer green part of the leaf for the same reason.
The simplest way to cook aloe is to remove all of the outer green skin from the leaves, cut the remaining aloe gel into small cubes and poach it in hot water. When removing the outer part of the leaves, you’ll want to be very careful. Hold the leaf steady with one hand, and cut the green skin with a sharp knife away from your body, not toward yourself; this is in case the knife slips on the aloe.
Here’s the “eeeww” part.
The inner gel part of the leaf that you will be harvesting is super slimy. It is so, so slimy. Its sliminess just cannot be overstated here. However, when it’s cooked, the sliminess goes away and you’ll be left with non-slimy, slightly smaller cubes than you started with that will feel like firm grapes.
If you go the simple poaching route, just bring a pot of water to boil, turn it down to a simmer and cook the (about) 1-inch cubes in the water for about 20 minutes, then drain. If you want to sweeten them a little, try adding a spoonful or two of sugar and some squeezes of lime juice. You can then add the poached aloe cubes to yogurt if you don’t want to eat them on their own. If you’re feeling more adventurous or would like to go the savory route, try adding the cubed aloe to your soup about 30 minutes before it’s done cooking. Enjoy!
Miranda Beverly is the front-end manager and marketing coordinator at Maple City Market in downtown Goshen.
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