I’d seen it many times before I realized that the rather ugly (I thought) spiky plant was aloe vera, which I knew was used in various lotions and creams as well as shampoos, as a beauty treatment. You can see the picture so some of you will understand what I mean.
This unprepossessing plant has been used for centuries to heal wounds (Dioscorides) and Pliny the Elder wrote that it was used to heal leprosy sores. It was the world’s first anti-perspirants too.
It’s known in different cultures by other names; it is known as the ‘lily of the desert’ in Arabia, where it originated and the ‘silent healer’ by Hindus, who believe it came from the Garden of Eden. The ancient Egyptians depicted the plant in stone carvings 6,000 years ago and called it the ‘plant of immortality’. It was entombed with the pharaohs for use in the after life, and later used for embalming when mixed with myrrh. Alexander the Great took over the island of Socotra, which produced a lot of aloe vera plants.
It was believed to ward off evil, and placed over doorways, to protect the inhabitants from witches and their spells. The Egyptians also found another use for it; they made scrolls with it.
It was in the subcontinent by 600 BC and now grows here in abundance. Nearly every house has a plant on the roof or in the courtyard. It also grows in North Africa, South America, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.
It can be used for all skin problems, and the efficacious substance is a clear gel that is found in the leaves. It can be used as a laxative when digested, but you must be careful not to take too much. Modern medical research has shown that it lowers cholesterol levels and is helpful to sufferers of type 11 diabetes, as it can help lower blood glucose levels.
What is also good about it is that it can be used in cooking. It has the effect of tenderizing meat when cooked with it. We give you a recipe using it below.
ALOE VERA AND LAMB STEW
1 kilo lamb on the bone (shoulder) and cut into small pieces with bone
1 medium onion, chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 inch piece of ginger root, finely chopped
1 inch piece of aloe vera with the green outer skin removed
6 green chillies, finely chopped
½ handful shredded fresh mint
½ handful shredded coriander leaves
10 black peppercorns
2 green cardamom pods
1 black cardamom pod
1 cinnamon stick 2 inches, split in half
1 tbsp garam masala (see recipes)
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup oil
salt and pepper to taste
Put the meat, green and black cardamoms, black peppercorns and cinnamon sticks into a pan and cover with 2 glasses of water. Bring it to the boil and simmer steadily until all the water has evaporated.
Pour the oil into another pan and fry the onions, garlic, aloe vera and ginger for 5 mins. Add the tomatoes and green chillies, stir and cook for a further 2 mins. Now add the garam masala, cumin seeds, turmeric, seasonings and the meat from the other pan. Cook over a low heat for 5 mins, Add 2 glasses of water with the lemon juice stir and cook over a low heat until half the water remains. Remove the pan from the heat.
Garnish with the fresh herbs, cover and leave to stand for 5 mins.
Serve with rice or breads of your choice.
This has Taste and is a Treat.