With a new cat to take care of, it’s a good thing that there are at least some plants that come close to growing themselves. Of course, I’m not including my extensive collection of invasives – those have death warrants, but I have a short list of plants that have a valuable edible reward for non-work. They are the ones I will always grow, since they are also delicious. This post will describe my aloes, and subsequent posts will include paw paws, basil, garlic, and daikon radish.
After starting out growing the most common aloe, Aloe vera, a very delicate aloe, I am now growing Aloe ferox or Cape aloe, originally from South Africa. The Aloe veras had a hard time adjusting to outdoor weather, especially to any sun at all, and I do like to clean up my indoor gardens in the spring and place many outdoors for the summer. The Aloe ferox is a larger, chunky aloe, which takes moves outdoors here in Michigan in stride. This variety, having larger leaves, also produces more gel. The Egyptians called aloe the herb of immortality because of the gel which is both antibacterial and antifungal. It is also soothing and healing for sunburns. I also like to use it in smoothies because it contains polysaccharides or complex sugars for sustained energy.
StrictlyMedicinalSeeds.com has a long list of available aloe plants of all kinds. Along with the Aloe ferox, I ordered a couple others, which are more like tree aloes. It will be interesting to see how tall they eventually grow (or not). I haven’t used these in smoothies, but they are fun to watch grow (so far). Richo Cech of Strictly Medicinal Seeds writes that “the leaf mucilage (gel) has a cooling and healing influence – the gel of Cape aloe is very similar to Aloe vera and may be used interchangably for it.” Dr. Group of the website Globalhealingcenter.com has an article on many other species of aloe titled, “Health Benefits of 13 Species of Aloe”.
Aloes are easy to grow, requiring only fast draining soil, sparse watering, and fertilizing only once per year. I simply start with my basic soil recipe, which is equal parts spaghnum peat (moistened), compost or worm castings, and expanded shale (or perlite) and add more expanded shale,perlite, or pumice – about another one third. I like to place pea gravel around the aloe as a mulch (and it makes it more attractive). I have them dotted around the house, looking like starfish on the ocean floor, and I’m sure by spring, there will be many more “pups” to remove and replant in their own pots. Thank goodness for all the neat pots at Goodwill!
Last Days of Fall Color Along Lake Michigan