Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Aloe - our first large harvest.

Transplanted Aloe Plant
When we first planted our backyard, we included an aloe vera plant which has now added 4 more. Usually I only pull a leaf off if it has problems or if I have a sun burn. And this is the only use I thought it had, so one leaf at a time seemed the best way to harvest aloe without harming the plant. After all, we do not want to harvest so much that the plant dies off.  But when we created a path through the overgrown succulents, we discovered the 4 hidden aloe plants beneath. Carlie transplanted the aloe to better spots around the yard, and harvested a bunch while doing so. She asked me to look up how to harvest aloe, and it was super easy. So simple, I thought I would share about it here.

New Foot Path June 2012
I am not a gardening expert, chef, or health food expert, so I am not making any recommendations here for how others should do things. There are other sites for that. What I am doing on this blog is sharing my own steps towards simplifying my own life. In this case, we have grown our own aloe, so why not learn how to harvest it rather than buying it in the store. This also means it has no added chemicals or preservatives, which means it may not last that long. We will see. But we felt it was worth a try. Using products with chemicals and preservatives has been pointed to as possibly linked to my health problems. I would do just about anything to continue healing, so this is a logical next step for me.  Living simply may look very different for other people. I invite you to share your own experiences.

1/3 of our Aloe and the sap seeping out
There are several parts to an aloe leaf. There is the skin or rind, the sap which is a reddish yellow liquid between the rind and the interior, and what we call the gel, or the center of the leaf. I am told the sap can act as a laxative, so we avoided that part.

Carlie was the one who came up with this idea, and asked me to research how to harvest aloe and what we can use it for. So I did the research, she did the harvesting, and now I'm writing the blog entry with photographs I took. Teamwork!

First Carlie cut the thickest leaves from the base of the large aloe plant. Then she placed them in our large spaghetti pot (at about a 45 degree angle) so that the sap would drain out or at least collect along the cut portion of the leaf. We were tired, so we left it over night but I'm told it only needs to sit there for 15-30 minutes.

Removing Ends
Then, she found a container we could put it in. We wanted an air tight container that wouldn't let light in, but since we had a lot of aloe, she chose one that does let light in, and placed it in a paper bag afterwards. She cut off both ends of the leaf, then the sides, and filleted it like a fish. Good thing she's had to fillet a lot of fish! The trick is to cut slightly below the rind so that any sap left between the rind and gel is removed, but so that you retain the most amount of the gel. Articles we read recommended using a spoon to push the gell off the bottom rind, but she chose to cut both rinds off instead.

Here is some information about the uses of Aloe plant. http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/amazing-aloe-vera.htm and this article about wound healing was very interesting as well: http://www.aloepure5000.com/blog1/2010/10/how-does-aloe-vera-heal-wounds/

Removing Rind
Recently a doctor recommended I use aloe on some scars that were healing from a surgery, but when I tried this, the area swelled and itched. The gel we'd bought had other things mixed in such as preservatives, so I will be trying again with pure aloe from our garden, and we'll see if I have the same reaction. I had never had that reaction to aloe in the past, but I had always bought 100% aloe from health food stores.  We will see if the organic 100% pure version works.

If you live near us and would like some, please let me know because we harvested way more than we can use ourselves, and I have no idea how long it will last in it's current state. I may mix some up as a combination body wash and shampoo since my current body wash is almost out, and we've been thinking switching away from chemical versions would be a good idea. We will see how that goes since I'm allergic to so many things but aloe did not come up as an allergy or food intolerance, I am hoping it is something I can use! Crossing my fingers in hope on that one. If it works out, I will share the shampoo/body wash recipe  in a future blog entry.

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