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.
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.