Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Eating yucca fruit

And what kills me is I cannot remember where I first read* that you can eat the flowers and fruit. Not in the books of Bradford Angier, Steve Brill, not Euell Gibbon - all silent on the subject of yucca. A mystery. Was it a blog? I subsequently found a few web references but precious little information on how to prepare the fruit, aside from boiling them up in a desert stew or roasting it in ashes. So here we go.

[* Update, 3:17pm: Ha! An email from Gabrielle Langholtz jogged my memory: Billie Joe Tatum's Wild Foods Field Guide and Cookbook; she gave it to me a few weeks ago. She also recommends candying the flowers and boiling the seeds, once removed from the pods.]

Above -  yucca flowers. This is Yucca filamentosa, growing at the Pier 44 garden, Red Hook. Before I knew you could eat the flowers or fruit.

I nibbled on a blossom in the Rockaways recently, off a sandy path between beach plum and bayberries on the way to the sea. It tasted fine. Vegetal, pleasant, soft. Then I potted the pods on another plant and pounced. Yee ha! The happiness of the forager.

Later I found more at Dead Horse Bay.

Now I had yucca. Sliced across, they are pretty in a tripartite way. I decided to peel the green skin off.

The white part inside, destined to become seeds, was very slightly mucilaginous, and had a hint of bitterness. Like green bean crossed with a bitterish cucumber. It had potential. But I ran out of steam. It's hard work peeling these peanut-sized pods, and I had other things on other burners. Milkweed pods on one, dolmades on another. And it was hot.

Fortunately I had a solution: when in doubt, pickle. 

So there they are. Pickled. Take that, you, you yucca, you... 

For good measure I added a teaspoon of bayberry fruit to the mix. We'll investigate in about three weeks?


  1. you're a brave woman! they don't look so tasty. look forward to the report back. -emme

  2. Hello Marie! :) Long Time ! I must compliment you on a really great blog. Its a cullinary and visual delight and so well written. I have been telling my social media circle of friends about it. Any way hope you are fine and dandy and happy as a hippa! A passing shot one of my old school friends (Margie Orford) had this in her status today ‎"So we have fresh goat milk and homegrown honey, and want to make ice-cream? how would we do such a thing?'
    Any ideas?" I pointed her to you! :)- Be well Marie. All the very best - Winston

  3. You're not thinking of agave, are you? (as source of jams, jellies, relish, not to mention tequila)


  4. Anonymous - well, sunchokes don't look tasty either, not to mention soy beans which look rather similar to the agave pods. I think it's just about what we are used to...

    Winston! Thanks. How are you? Yes, make ice cream. Melt honey till liquid, add to goat milk, to taste. Then you either need an ice cream maker which churns it for you or you need to freeze it in a shallowish bowl and scratch it regularly with a fork as it freezes (from the edges in), to keep the crystals small and even. In the latter case it will not be smooth and creamy but more like granita/sorbet. I'll see if I can find you on F'book.

    Anonymous (the same one or another one?) - no, not thinking of agave, but am interested. Agave relish? What part of the plant do you use? I know about the juice of course, from the heart of the plant...Please tell me more!


  6. Thanks, Anonymous (1, 2 or 3?) - I saw that in my web travels.

  7. Somewhere I have a book called Wild Seasons: gathering and cooking wild plants of the Great Plains / / Kay Young. It’s one of my favorites, both for the foraging advice and the recipes. Do you have it? I believe it has a bunch of info about yucca, but I can’t remember. And I can’t find the book.

    Some of my other favorite ethnobotany books include - Native harvests: botanicals and recipes of the American Indian / / Barrie Kavasch; Native Indian Wild Game, Fish & Wild Foods Cookbook: recipes from North American native cooks / / edited by David Hunt; Medicinal and Other Uses of North American Plants / / Charlotte Erichsen-Brown; Strength of the Earth: The Classic Guide to Ojibwe Uses of Native Plants / / Frances Densmore; the books Alma Hutchens wrote about Native American Herbology…

    Stop me.

    Good luck!

  8. I am definitely going to try the flowers. I just noticed today that one of mine is flowering! Here's another resource:


  10. Whatever... The entire URL refuses to load...

  11. I am very interested in pickling the yucca fruits - could you tell me what you used in your pickle mixture? I'm looking at adapting a recipe from pickled okra, but thought I should ask you first.

  12. Hi peppergrass - I think I listed the ingredients on our Flickr conversation:

    'I added bayberry leaves and seeds (you could use regular bay), salt, sugar, black pepper and a little cumin' - with white vinegar (it was all I had) in a ratio of about 1 to 3. More (3 times) sugar than salt. Taste the mixture, so the salt-sugar is balanced...

  13. I think this is such a great recipe; one I hadn't thought of! I linked to it from my website. I hope you don't mind. You can find the link here: Thank you!

  14. You might want to collect the flower stalk before the blossoms form. Very sweet when SLOW, SLOW pit roasted over a 2 day period.

  15. I definitely recommend eating them fire roasted, as that removes the bitterness and sweetens them up.

  16. I love all plants, but more than anything I love plants that are useful.

    Apache Native Americans made great use of the yucca plant.

    "The fruit can be roasted, the seeds removed, and the sweet pulp pounded into flat cakes and then sun dried." - unknown.

    The leaves are good for making string. This string can be used for hanging dried meat or as a string for a bow and arrow.

    I've also heard that some varieties are good for starting friction fires.


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