By Karen England, for Let’s Talk Plants! April 2022.
Vista, California. Sunset through Aloe vera blossoms. Flowers destined for tacos!
A visitor to my garden many years ago saw my yellow blooming Aloe vera plants and was instantly transported back in time to his Mexican grandmother’s kitchen where she made delicious aloe blossom tacos for her family. I had never heard of this and immediately asked for more information and my guest obligingly contacted his sister-in-law who had the late grandmother’s recipe and they both generously shared it with me. A quick Google search then showed that several cultures in the East, Middle East and in South America have a long history of using aloe flowers as food.
Sautéed Aloe Vera Blossom Tacos
-Pick a heaping cup of unopened yellow flowering aloe blossoms
-Important! Remove the green stems on each flower and wash well
-Chop half of a small onion
-Mince a few garlic cloves
-1 to 2 tablespoons oil or butter
-Pinch of salt
-4 to 6 small corn tortillas
-optional: lime wedges for serving
Heat a tablespoon or two of oil or butter in a cast iron skillet over medium heat and sauté the flowers, onion and garlic for 2 - 3 minutes.
Serve like a side dish or heat the tortillas and make tacos.
Optional; use the aloe flower sauté with eggs, chorizo and/or nopales (prickly pear cactus paddles, which are the edible parts of the cactus) in tacos.
Note: Those were some of the best and quickest tacos ever! FYI - I tried picking more flowers than I needed for one meal and refrigerating them uncooked for later and they only lasted a few days in the fridge. I suggest that you pick just what you need each time you need them for best results.
Aloe vera in bloom at Karen England's Edgehill Herb Farm, Vista, California.
The Herbal Aloe vera
If there could be an herb classified as the first herb in history, Aloe vera might very well be it and it is first up in this Herbal Succulents series.
But first, what is an herb?
“An herb is a useful plant; useful for cooking, crafting/decoration and medicine.” – International Herb Association
That said, many cacti and succulents, okay, maybe not many, but definitely a few, are herbs such as agaves, think Tequila, sempervirens, aloe, opuntia, the beta carotene rich purslane, plectranthus,Talinum paniculatum, saguaro, dragon fruit, dragon fruit relative Cereus peruvianus, barrel cactus, etc…
Are you growing any of these? I bet you are. Are you using them to their fullest? Maybe not. So - read on…
The following publication excerpted here (the link to the full publication is above) is not copyrighted and is in the public domain. Duplication is encouraged.
NCCIH (National Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine) has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your health care provider(s). We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by NCCIH.
Aloe vera, Aloe africana, Aloe arborescens, Aloe barbadensis
Aloe is a cactus-like plant that grows in hot, dry climates. It is cultivated in subtropical regions around the world, including the southern border areas of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.
Aloe has been used for skin conditions and was thought to improve baldness and promote wound healing.
Aloe is used topically (applied to the skin) and orally. Topical use of aloe is promoted for acne, lichen planus (a very itchy rash on the skin or in the mouth), oral submucous fibrosis, burning mouth syndrome, burns, and radiation-induced skin toxicity. Oral use of aloe is promoted for weight loss, diabetes, hepatitis, and inflammatory bowel disease (a group of conditions caused by gut inflammation that includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis).
In 2002, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a ruling that required manufacturers to remove aloe from over-the-counter laxative products because of a lack of safety data.
How Much Do We Know?
A number of studies have investigated the usefulness of aloe as a dietary supplement or a topical product for health purposes in people.
What Have We Learned?
Clinical research suggests that topical application of an aloe-based gel twice daily (along with medical soap and tretinoin gel) may improve acne.
Clinical research suggests topical application of aloe gel may speed burn healing. There also is evidence that treatment with aloe vera may reduce pain from burns.
Research suggests topical use of aloe also may help people with herpes simplex, lichen planus, or psoriasis.
Three trials (with a total of 236 adult participants) have evaluated the use of oral doses of aloe vera for symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Results from one trial showed a benefit; the other two trials showed no benefit of aloe vera over placebo.
In a small European study, 44 adults with ulcerative colitis were randomly assigned to receive aloe vera gel or a placebo twice daily for a month. Almost half of the people treated with aloe vera responded to the treatment whereas 14 percent of those treated with placebo responded.
Aloe vera has been studied in clinical (human) trials for diabetic foot ulcers and dental plaque, but there’s not enough scientific evidence to show whether aloe vera is helpful for these conditions. A 2009 review article examined data from a mix of laboratory, animal, and clinical trials and concluded that more research is necessary to explore aloe’s clinical effectiveness for a number of different skin conditions.
What Do We Know About Safety?
Topical use of aloe gel is generally well tolerated. However, there have been occasional reports of burning, itching, and eczema with topical use of aloe gel. Oral use of aloe latex can cause abdominal pain and cramps. Oral consumption of aloe leaf extracts (for as little as 3 weeks and as long as 5 years) has been related to cases of acute hepatitis.
Animal studies have noted an association between aloe vera leaf extract taken orally and gastrointestinal cancer in rats and mice; however, concerns were expressed about the differences in the product used in that study and those commonly used by consumers. Thus, more research is needed to assess the relevance to human health.
Overuse of aloe latex may increase the risk of adverse effects from the drug digoxin, used for some heart problems.
Aloe—both in gel and latex form—when taken by mouth may be unsafe during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
Keep in Mind:
Take charge of your health—talk with your health care providers about any complementary health approaches you use. Together, you can make shared, well-informed decisions.
After reading the above excerpt from the NCCIH, if you still want to make your own Aloe Vera Juice using your home-grown plants check out the following: