Sooth (sooth) wrote,

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Aloe Vera

Everyone knows what Aloe Vera is (or at least you should, unless you've been living under a rock), but not that many people know that you can eat it, or how to prepare it.

If you've ever played around with the cutting off a leaf, it's kind of an otherworldly experience.

When you cut through a leaf, the interior is entirely filled with a clear gel, with just a thin green outer layer. The gel looks kind of like clear Jell-O but once you start cutting it, or playing with it, it quickly turns into SLIME. And I seriously mean it when I say slime. It drips, oozes, and it's a bit sticky. It's kind of like runny eggs, but kind of semi-solid? If you watch the first part of the video below you'll see exactly what I mean.

The gel on its own has pretty much zero flavour, but can have a very mild bitterness. It's often added to things like juices and smoothies, but blending it too much makes for a foamy drink (and that doesn't seem too appealing to me particularly).

The reason I'm writing at all about aloe is because today I had to finally deal with my aloe plant, which has become some kind of Frankenstein abomination over the past few years.

I don't even remember when I bought the darn thing, but I do remember it was at a yard sale, and I'm pretty sure I bought it while I was at the apartment, likely around 2004-5 ish. So nearly 10 years.

In that time, it has grown continually, and over the years has lost a bunch of its lower leaves. Some leaves were damaged, and eventually it got so large that it was supporting itself against the window glass.

About a year or two ago it finally collapsed out of its pot, and started growing kind of sideways off the shelf/bench I've got it on. It also started to have a bunch of small babies which grew quickly. Some of these I grew in a new pot, one other I left, and some got picked off.

Fast forward to today, and this is how awful it was looking:

For the sake of clarity, this shows the bottom leaves pushed back, and you can see how the stem curves out of the pot.

It literally took up the entire width of the dining room table (3 feet).

So anyways, I cut off the entire bottom after doing a bit of research, and I pulled off several additional leaves, and stuck it in a new pot. Apparently it should be fine, and it should regrow some new roots. If it doesn't, and it dies, then I still have several baby plants. I have 3 to give away, one set aside for Lynne, the original root stock with 2 babies, and one other small one that I'm keeping. 7 plants total, with 4 being given away.

So after all that trimming, I had a bunch of leaves left (which you can see in the first photo) and I wanted to try some.

If you want to prepare aloe for eating, there's really only 2 things you need to be aware of; 1: don't eat the green part, and 2: the plant will ooze yellow sap around the edges when you break off a leaf, or cut it. While this sap isn't toxic, it smells like really bad b/o and is a strong laxative. Generally when you are preparing the aloe, they suggest that you soak the fresh cut leaves in a large container of water for 5 minutes, and that once you cut off the green bits, you just rinse them in clean water to make sure they're free of any sap.

The most informative video I found online is this one, but it's 30mins long, so you can skip ahead.

So how did I prepare mine? I just cut about a 3" section of a nice fat leaf (you want to use a nice plump one, and not one that's thin or partially dried out), and I pared off the green bits, which left me with a gelatinous rectangle of slimy flesh, and I rinsed it, and finely diced it. I then added it to some sparkling lemonade very much in an imitation of the very popular "Aloe Vera Juice" which is just floating aloe vera chunks in white grape juice (and it's awesome!) My version is pretty much the same thing, but with fairly big chunks since I can't cut them quite small enough.

In related house plant news, the Lemon Tree is still alive and well. It's had several ups and downs over the past few years, and last year it was nearly 6 feet tall again, so I chopped it down practically to nothing, and since then it has come back quite beautifully, and it has put out a really nice array of branches. It's no longer leggy and random looking. It still has never flowered though, which is quite discouraging.

It is, however, healthy and beautiful, which makes me very happy with it currently. I keep pinching off the tips to encourage side growth. I'm hoping I can keep it about this size.

For those who don't know, or can't remember, I had grown this tree from seed several years back. I remember it almost like it was (not quite) yesterday. I was at a nursery with my aunt and uncle in Kemptville one summer, and they had this large tree at the end of a table in their greenhouse. I remember that from about 10 feet away, you could smell the most AMAZING and intoxicating perfume from the flowers. When we got up close to it, it was in full fruit, and hanging off the branches were what appeared to be large pale grapefruits. I asked one of the employees there what kind of tree it was, and he said it was a lemon! They had just left the fruit on it, and the lemons get huge and turned pale.

From that instant I became somewhat obsessed with growing one of my own. Growing a tree from seed was actually very easy, but fruit/flowers aren't guaranteed. It can be anywhere from 1 to 10 years from planting. If you buy one from a nursery you have a much higher chance of success, but I was broke then, and I didn't want to pay 40-50$.

I just took about a good half hour to track down the old posts. The original visit to that nursery was at the end of May 2005, and the lemon seedlings had sprouted by early June:

So the tree is almost 9 years old already. Wow. Time flies.
Tags: aloe vera, lemon tree, plants
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