How to harvest aloe vera
So. You have a lovely, abundant aloe vera plant, and you’re thinking you might like to harvest some of its gel. (Maybe you have a sunburn that needs soothing with fresh aloe gel? Or you want a little of its juicy goodness to add to your morning smoothie?) You, friend, have come to exactly the right place to learn how to harvest aloe vera gel, with our easy-peasy six step method.
Before we get started though, we know you have questions, like:
“How do I harvest the gel without killing my aloe plant?”
“How do I separate the gel from the leaf?”
“How do I get rid of all those aloe thorns?”
Don’t worry, we have answers. And if you don’t feel like reading and would rather just watch the video — we get it! Go ahead and press play.
Step 1: pick an aloe leaf to cut
The pointy spears of aloes don’t look like leaves at all, do they? But, it’s true — they are leaves.
Anyway. Choose a thick, juicy leaf to cut, from a mature plant that has at least five leaves. Choose an outer leaf (aloe vera leaves grow from the inside out). Make sure the leaf you choose is a healthy, vigorous one — avoid leaves that are thin or withered. (Use the image below to guide your choice.)
Next, find a sharp knife to cut the leaf.
Step 2: cut only what you need from your aloe
Before you cut, decide how much aloe you need, as fresh aloe lasts only up to two weeks in the refrigerator, and you don’t want to waste any of it!
It’s completely fine to cut only part of a leaf if that’s all you need. Aloe are great self-sealers, wherever you cut the aloe will dry up and seal itself in short order.
This is an important part of step 2 — make sure you have a container handy or are near a sink before you start harvesting.
Once you’re ready, go ahead and cut the portion of aloe leaf that you need.
Step 3: drain the aloe latex from the cut leaf
Important! After you cut the leaf, hold it upright over the container you made ready (or over the sink). This will allow the aloe latex (called aloin), to drain out of the cutting. When you see yellow drips of aloin, you know it’s draining from the leaf.
This is an important step because aloin is a skin irritant and a laxative. You don’t want to use it unless you have a particular need to. Ahem.
Don’t try to squeeze the leaf to release the latex, as this will only cause the aloin to combine with the gel inside the leaf.
Once the dripping has stopped, give the cut end a rinse under running water to remove any final amount of aloin.
Step 4: Remove the thorny edges
With a sharp knife (be careful to practice knife safety), slice off the very lengthwise edge of each side of the leaf to remove the aloe thorns.
Step 5: Slice off the skin or scoop
Once again using your sharp knife (sharper is better as you’ll get the smoothest cut), carefully slice just under the aloe leaf’s skin to pare off the green topmost layer, removing the skin.
This will expose the translucent gel inside of the leaf (aka: the good stuff). Repeat the process with the bottom layer of green skin. Or simply scoop the gel off of the bottom layer, whichever you find to be easiest.
Step 6: Enjoy your bountiful aloe harvest
Use the aloe gel as is, chop it up into bits, or toss it in a blender to liquify it. Store unused gel in the fridge for up to two weeks. You can also freeze it for longer storage (some people like to freeze the gel in portions in ice cube trays). Imagine how nice frozen aloe would feel on a sunburn…very nice indeed.
But on that topic. Aloe vera gel is reputed to have many health benefits. It’s been used for hundreds of years for its healing properties to topically treat skin conditions and rashes, dry skin, and burns and sunburns. Aloe gel is also replete with antioxidants, so it’s a healthy supplement to add to your morning smoothie. Or, add it to a glass of water for a simple, good-for-you aloe vera juice drink.
Want learn more about the benefits of aloe vera? Check out our article on Twelve Magnificent Uses for Aloe Vera Gel (and why it works)!