Aloe leaves may vary in length, anywhere from 30 to 50 centimeters long, and are lance-shaped with serrated edges. The succulent leaves are firm and have a smooth, green skin with a fleshy texture. The skin is fibrous and bitter and is not typically consumed. The clear, inner flesh or “gel” of the Aloe plant has a texture like the flesh of a firm grape. Between the thick, protective skin and the translucent, jelly-like flesh is a bitter, viscous yellow-hued sap that needs to be rinsed off. Raw Aloe has a clean, refreshing taste and a slightly green flavor that is mildly bitter. The flesh will take on the flavors of any brine or liquid it is cooked in.
Aloe is both nutrient and mineral dense and provides a wide variety of health benefits. The “gel” or tissue within the skin contains most of the beneficial properties. Aloe is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, E, and B-complex, as well as folic acid and potassium. It also contains the minerals calcium, sodium, iron, magnesium, and copper. Aloe contains compounds called anthraquinones which provide anti-pain, antioxidant and antiviral benefits. It contains 7 of the 9 essential amino acids required for optimal health, in addition to polyphenols which provide beneficial antioxidants, and at least a dozen different compounds that reduce inflammation.