Hi, I'm Sam, I enjoy writing about nutrition and health-related topics, especially alternative and plant-based remedies.
Aloe vera is an extremely useful plant to have around, both to soothe burns and cuts and for its potential digestive health benefits. Of course, in order to enjoy these benefits, you’ll first need to harvest the fresh gel from your plant.
Luckily, harvesting aloe vera gel is very easy. Depending on the size of your plant, you can harvest a good amount of gel in very little time. All you’ll need is a sharp knife, a clean work area, paper towels (or clean cloth), a storage container, and gloves if you want them. This article will break down the process.
Which Aloe Leaf Should I Choose?
The first thing you need to do is identify a ripe leaf. Look for one that’s thick, smooth, and deep green. If you squeeze it gently, you should feel a bit of give without being able to squeeze all the way through. The size of the leaf will depend on how large your plant is. If you have a large, mature aloe plant, you should choose a leaf that’s about a foot long or longer.
If you have a smaller potted plant, leaves that are around 4 inches long and at least an inch thick will work fine. The larger and thicker the leaf is, the more gel you’ll get. Make sure that you leave enough leaves for the plant to continue growing. Avoid taking too many from the same spot, and only harvest the larger leaves from the center.
Picking the Leaf
- Aloe vera leaves have slightly spiky edges. So you may want to wear either gardening gloves or rubber gloves in order to protect your hands.
- Once you have selected a leaf (or leaves), use a sharp knife to cut off the leaf close to the base of the plant. A pair of gardening shears works well, too. Breaking off the leaf by hand can damage the plant. So it’s best to make a clean cut, if possible.
- After you’ve cut off the leaf, hold the cut side down to let the aloin drip out. Aloin is a yellow-brown sap that has a bitter taste and a strong laxative effect. You want to avoid getting this in your final product, particularly if you’re planning on ingesting the gel.
- Before starting to cut open the leaf, you should clean it. You can either run it under the sink or use a damp paper towel to wipe it off.
How to Get Gel From an Aloe Vera Leaf
Harvesting is relatively simple. The gel holds its shape fairly well, so all you need to do is peel off the outer green skin. If you’re working with a large leaf, you may want to cut it into sections to make it more manageable. If your leaf has any knots, cut those sections out; there won’t be gel beneath them. Then, cut off the top and bottom edge of your leaf.
Next, cut off the outer edges (where the plant has small thorns). Then you’ll need to slide your knife under the top outer skin, peeling it away from the gel—just like filleting a fish. Then simply repeat this for the bottom layer of green skin. The gel should separate easily from the skin, leaving you with a leaf-shaped section of translucent gel.
Some people prefer to simply cut open the leaf and scoop the gel out with a spoon. This works as well and is a bit quicker, but you’ll get a more pure section of gel without bits of leaf (which may contain aloin) by peeling away the skin.
How to Store Aloe Vera Gel
After you’ve unveiled your long section of fresh gel, it’s time to use it or store it! The easiest thing to do is often to cut the section into small cubes, which will be simple to use later, whether you want to add one to your morning smoothie or rub it onto some irritated skin.
You can keep the gel in the refrigerator for about a week or freeze it for about a month. Many products that include aloe as an ingredient, such as a vitamin gel mix or a face wash, will last for longer.
The internet is full of recipes and ideas for how to use aloe vera, ranging from makeup removers, to acne treatments, to heartburn relief, and much more. As a matter of fact, you may find that you need to harvest some more before you know it.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2017 Sam Shepards
RTalloni on March 18, 2017:
Thanks for useful info on harvesting and storing peeled aloe vera gel. Keeping these plants was easy when living in Florida, but I hope to set aside a place to manage a good crop of them here one day.