Agave or Aloe Vera (several hundred Agave species)

The Agave plantThese edible plants have large clusters of thick, fleshy leaves borne close to the ground and surrounding a central stalk. The plants flower only once, then die. They produce a massive flower stalk.

Where to Find: Agaves prefer dry, open areas. They are found throughout Central America, the Caribbean, and parts of the western deserts of the United States and

Edible Parts: Its flowers and flower buds, leaves (to a lessor degree), stalks, and sap are edible. Boil them before eating.

Agave plant in the wildOther Uses: Cut the huge flower stalk and collect the juice for drinking. Some species have very fibrous leaves. Pound the leaves and remove the fibers for weaving and making ropes.

Most species have thick, sharp needles at the tips of the leaves. Cut around the base of the “needle”, without penetrating the core of the leaf, then carefully detach and pull the needle from the plant.  The core, which looks must like a multi-fiber thread, will remain attached to the needle and will slide out of the leaf giving you a handy “needle and thread” that is all ready to to.  Use this for sewing or making hacks.  I have heard reports of some repairs made using the agave “needle and thread” trick have lasted for several years even after the repaired clothing items were passed through multiple machine-washes.

The sap of some species contains a chemical that makes the sap suitable for use as a soap.  Leaf tea or tincture taken orally is used to treat constipation and excess gas. It is also used as a diuretic. Root tea or tincture is taken orally to treat arthritic joints.

Note: The juice of some species causes dermatitis in some individuals and in some cases may cause blistering. The Agave plant parts of some species contain high concentrations of saponins which is toxic.  Drinking too much of the juice can cause stomach cramps.

Agave plant

Agave plant in full bloom

Agave plants in full bloom

Agave plant in garden

Agave plant in garden

Agave plant bloom

Agave plant in the wild