Aloe vera is a succulent plant species of the genus Aloe. The plant is stemless or very short-stemmed with thick, greenish, fleshy leaves that fan out from the plant’s central stem. The margin of the leaf is serrated with small teeth.
Before you buy an aloe, note that you’ll need a location that offers bright, indirect sunlight (or, artificial sunlight). However, the plant doesn’t appreciate sustained direct sunlight, as this tends to dry out the plant too much and turn its leaves yellow, rendering them subpar for use.
Keep the aloe vera plant in a pot near a kitchen window for periodic use but avoid having the sun’s rays hit it directly.
Please note: The gel from aloe vera leaves can be used topically, but should not be ingested by people or pets. It can cause unpleasant symptoms such as nausea or indigestion and may even be toxic in larger quantities.
It’s relatively simple to harvest an aloe plant for gel and juice. You’ll need a mature plant that’s at least a few years old. This ensures a higher concentration of the active ingredients.
You’ll also want to wait a few weeks before cutting leaves from the same plant. You may want to have a few plants on rotation if you plan to harvest aloe often.
To harvest your aloe plant for gel and juice:
- Remove 3-4 leaves at a time, choosing thick leaves from the outer sections of the plant.
- Ensure the leaves are healthy and free of any mold or damage.
- Cut them close to the stem. Most of the beneficial nutrients are found at the base of the leaves.
- Avoid the roots.
- Wash and dry the leaves.
- Trim the prickly edges with a knife.
- Using a knife or your fingers, separate the interior gel from the outside of the leaf. The interior gel is the part of the aloe that you’ll use.
- Allow the yellow sap to drain from the leaf. This is the aloe vera latex. If you plan to use the latex, you can catch this in a container. If you’re not planning to use the latex, you can dispose of it.
- Cut the aloe gel into slices or cubes.
If you want smooth aloe gel, after separating the aloe from the exterior part of the leaf, you can put the aloe into a blender and then strain the substance to remove the pulp.