Yucca filamentosa leaves, great for cordage

Yucca, Yuca: Which is Edible?

When isn’t a yucca a yucca? When it is spelt with one “C” as in yuca.

What’s the difference? A belly ache, maybe more.

The yucca (YUK-ka) in the wild has several edible parts ABOVE ground. The yuca (YEW-ka)  in the grocery store is a cultivated cassava and has one edible part BELOW ground.

Yucca, two C’s, officially is native to the hot, dry parts of North and Central America and the West Indies.  However Y. filamentosa (fill-luh-men-TOE-suh) can be found as far west as Texas, north to Canada and east to Massachusetts. It is also found in humid Florida. So much for “dry”.  Other yucca, who do like it arid can be found across the desert southwest of the United States from Texas to California and parts south.

I've not met a yucca blossom I could eat raw

So, what parts of the yucca are edible? Flower petals, raw or cooked though raw they usually give me a stomach ache, at best throat ache.  Try your raw blossoms carefully. Try one — ONE — petal, not only blossom, one petal and wait 20 minutes. See if you throat feels dry or bitter. If so these flowers should be cooked, I recommend boiling. The young fruits raw or cooked, but they are very bitter raw, read another throat/stomach ache. They are far better roasted until tender. Scrape out the inside and separate from the seeds. The pulp, sweetened, can be use for pies or boil dry to a paste, dry in oven as a sheet. Edible as is or mix with other food. The seeds can be roasted (375F) until dry, grind roughly, boil as a vegetable until tender. Young short flower stalks long before they blossom are also edible. Cut into sections, boil 30 minutes in plenty of water, peel. You can also peel first.

For you survivalists, the yucca provides more than food. Yucca wood — read the dry flower stalk  — has the lowest kindling temperature of any wood, desirable for fire starting, especially if you are using a bow and drill. Use the yucca stalk for the drill.  The roots and leaves can be rubbed in water to get a natural soap (that’s what makes the yucca bitter.) With some of the yuccas you can crush the root, and shampoo with the juice. Also the leaves can be made into extremely strong cordage. Many yucca come with a needle built in at the end of the leaf, and others like the filamentosa above, shed threads.

The Yucca is the state flower of New Mexico and is pollenated by a plant-specific moth…the nocturnal Yucca moth…

Sauteed Yucca Flowers with chipotle (or a chili of your choice.)

* 1/4 cup olive oil

* 1 Chipotle pepper in adobo sauce

* 1 clove minced garlic

* 1 diced onion

* 1 tomato

* One cup cooked Yucca flowers (boiled down from one quart fresh yucca flowers)

Salt to taste

Boil Yucca flowers in an abundance of water for about 10 minutes and drain well. Meanwhile heat the oil to medium heat, Sweat the onions and garlic then stir in everything except the flowers. Cook for about 5 minutes and keep stirring. Add flowers , stir until warm and mixed.

Green Deane’s “Itemized” Plant Profile

IDENTIFICATION: Erect plant with tall, thick central stem, 4 to 25 feet high, sometimes branched, long dagger-like leaves shedding threads, flowers tulip-like, waxy, drooping. Fruit cylindrical to 5 inches  with purple skin and pulp, many seeds

TIME OF YEAR: Blossoms in late spring, early summer, fruits later in the year in northern climes

ENVIRONMENT: Usually dry but not arid areas but some species like it arid

METHOD OF PREPARATION: Six-sided fruits edible raw or cooked, rubbery and bitter, cooking helps some, flower petals raw in salads, sparingly, or fried, may be batter dipped, boiled or roasted. Better boiled.  Very young flower stalk peeled and boiled. Roast seed, crush, boil until tender. Personally, I boil the  petals  for 10 minutes then use them. Occasionally I find a Y. filamentosa blossom I  can eat raw but only one. You simply have to try them carefully. They are sweet on first taste but leave a bitter residue.

 

 

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Andy Firk November 3, 2011 at 06:52

Deane, have you encountered the Hyptis pectinata (Comb Bushmint)? It grows wild here in DeSoto County, Florida and is native from Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America I believe. I have researched it and found that, besides having medicinal uses in many countries, it is also eaten as a vegetable and used as a seasoning. According to plants.jstor.org the leaves are used in Africa in sauces, and as a condiment, spice, and flavoring. According to the book World Spice Plants by Seidemann, the leaves are used as a flavoring in the Ivory Coast & Upper Volta, being mixed with various spices. And, according to Morton, 1981, via plantsforuse.com, “in Africa, sometimes grown and cooked as greens.” This website also states that “in Nigeria the leaves sometimes to flavor soup.”

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2 Robert M. November 7, 2011 at 11:29

Yucca is awesome. I have to say that the blossoms are onion-like in texture but don’t taste like an onion. Kind of on the sweet/spicy side and a strange taste. I have not sampled the fruits, seeds, or young stalks yet.

The cordage from the leaves is the strongest of any natural fiber I have come across. Great under tension and some abrasion.

The dead and dry stem is a great spindle for friction sets.

I have not used the leaf coating or root for soap yet.

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3 Eva Sido March 25, 2012 at 11:50

I really want to try using the root to wash wool. I came across this site several months ago. http://www.indianweaving.com/wool.html

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4 Mohamad Reda May 8, 2012 at 10:58

Wouldn’t be nice if there is a page just for weeds images. You see something that catches your eyes but have no clue what it is. Such a page would come in handy.

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5 Green Deane May 8, 2012 at 11:49

The UFO page on the Green Deane Forum is along those lines.

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6 Starr Belsky July 3, 2012 at 17:35

Just saw your video on eating the Florida yucca. I live in SW New Mexico, and in my yard have a banana yucca that bloomed and now has fruits. They appears to have “sugar spots,” so I assume they’re ripe. Would I cook the fruit and seeds the same way you recommended for the species you showed?

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7 Green Deane July 11, 2012 at 20:40

Franky, I would leave them alone. The fruit really don’t taste too good.

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8 Korina October 16, 2013 at 11:57

I gotta disagree on this one. Several weeks ago, I found a banana yucca with huge 8-10″ long fruits on it, so I grabbed one. I stashed it in the fridge for about 6 weeks, before I was finally got around the cooking it.

I seeded it (because I want to grow it), cleaned out the fibers in the center, wrapped it in foil, and roasted it in the oven for about 45 minutes. I was totally stunned by how good it turned out! It tastes like a very sweet squash.

I don’t know if it was the extra storage time or the cooking method, but either way, it turned out really nice. Here’s a picture of the final product:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/grrlscout224/10312259806/

I actually think I’ve going to use the cooked flesh in some sort of dumpling or empanada.

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9 Mason Chizk August 2, 2012 at 02:22

Hello Green Deane,

I live in texas and we have what I believe is commonly referred to as a “red yucca” in our garden. I was rather disappointed to find in my references that it is not actually a yucca at all and is actually closer to an aloe while it still resembles a yucca. Can this plant still be used in ways similar to a yucca?

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10 Green Deane August 13, 2012 at 09:08

No, sorry. Different species.

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11 Roxanne Rich February 20, 2013 at 05:51

Can I juice the Yucca leaves?

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12 Green Deane February 20, 2013 at 06:40

They’re extremely tough and taste bad. I would think not.

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13 Moriah April 18, 2013 at 22:27

Aside from being sharp and dangerous, could these harm horses? My horses tend to be very picky about what they eat and these would look lovely in the pasture bordering the road. It would also serve as a deterrent to leaning over fences. This acre will eventually be fenced off for an orchard and all edibles. Should I wait until they dont have access to them?

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14 Green Deane April 19, 2013 at 06:53

Some are edible most are not. The have a chemical that burns so most livestock avoid it.

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15 Moriah April 20, 2013 at 10:34

Just saw your utube video of several growing along a road and pasture. You said they may eat them young and tender. Dont think my picky gals would eat a large, bitter one, but since they spread new, young ones, I think I’ll plant them in the yard. Husband, 5 kids, and I are striving for a completely self sufficient homestead. Cant beat a plant that offers sooo much: Edible, medicinal, fire drill, cordage, soap, and a sewing needle! I also came across a bit of info that stated you can grind the root into a pulp and use it as a fish stunner. Do you have any knowledge of this? Most on internet get it confused with the yuca tree, so Im not always sure what to believe.

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16 Jeff April 27, 2013 at 20:12

I know this is an article about yucca, but you mention cassava having one edible part under ground. The leaves are eaten in much of the world after twice boiling.

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17 patti owens September 24, 2013 at 14:12

Are all yucca edible? I live in NY and I was told a plant I have in my yard is a yucca plant. It grows straight up, about 6′ tall and has cream colored flowers on it. It also gets fruit. It looks like the one you picture on your page. You can cut the stalk easily when it’s green… but you need a saw if it drys.

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