If you grow aloe vera and you don’t use the nectar of the gods inside (aloe vera gel) you’re seriously missing out! Fresh aloe knocks the socks off store-bought bottles, and it is super healthy for your skin, hair, burns and digestion. But I get it – harvesting aloe is intimidating at first. You may be thinking:
“What if I kill my plant?”
“How the heck do I separate the gel from the skin?”
“Yeesh, I just noticed all those thorns…”
Yes, looking at your thorny aloe plant, you may think that harvesting the gel from inside it is a prickly task – and it can be if you don’t know the proper techniques! Follow these simple steps and you will see that it is actually quite a quick, easy and rewarding (although slimy) process!
1. Find a ‘leaf’ to cut.
Aloes produce new growth from the center, so avoid cutting central leaves. Instead, harvest from the outermost (oldest) leaves. But don’t select an old withered leaf. For a proper harvest, you’ll need a plump, juicy-looking leaf with lots of gel inside.
Also, make sure there are at least four leaves left on your aloe plant after harvesting so that it has what it needs to keep living!
2. Take just what you need.
Cut aloe can keep in the fridge for only 1 to 2 weeks, but it’s best fresh so don’t take more than you need. It’s totally fine to cut off part of a leaf if that’s all you want!
Aloe will heal the cut wound at any point along the leaf by drying out and sealing up the tip, which allows you to harvest more aloe from the same leaf later on.
3. Allow the yellow ‘aloe latex’ to drip off the open end of the aloe leaf.
This stinky yellow ooze is actually a laxative and potential skin irritant! The leaf will secrete yellow latex for a brief time after it is wounded. Allow it to drip off into a container and freeze or refrigerate it for later use. It makes a great addition to the meals of your enemies!
Gotcha, hehe 😉
Seriously though, don’t serve it up to other people – allow it to drip off into your sink. Once the latex secretion is finished, rinse the end of the aloe to remove any latex residue.
4. Remove the thorns.
Make a thin slice lengthwise along the seam of the leaf, just inside the thorny edges. Keep a firm grip on the aloe and your fingers well away from the path of the knife.
5. Filet the skin or scoop.
Carefully slice just under the aloe’s skin on both sides to access the aloe gel. Again, please be very careful while cutting and keep your fingers safe!
Alternatively, you can cut the aloe in half, lengthwise, and scrape the gel off the leaf with a spoon.
Use the aloe gel as is, chop it up into bits, or toss it in a blender to liquify it. Store any unused gel in the fridge for 1 to 2 weeks or freeze it for longer storage.
Want to get the most out of your aloe gel? Check out our article on Twelve Magnificent Uses for Aloe Vera Gel (and why it works)!
If you don’t grow aloe yet but you’re eager to try, or if you’re not having the most success with your aloe plants, you’ve got to read this Aloe Killer’s Guide to Thriving Aloe Vera Plants! It’s packed with simple tips and hard-won wisdom to help even the blackest of thumbs grow happy aloe plants.