The fruit of a Mojave Yucca, also called a Spanish Bayonet, is interesting to say the least.
The taste is slightly bitter, yet also juicy and refreshing reminding me of, believe it or not, watermelon rind. The Yucca is often thought of as a cactus, however, it is actually in the evergreen family and it is a tree. The Yucca Schidigera, which is today’s flavor, comes straight from a Yucca forest in the desert outside of Las Vegas. This particular type of Yucca is found only in certain regions of the Mojave, Sonoran, and Chihuahuan Deserts of the southwest.
The Yucca is actually a pretty versatile plant from both a culinary and a medicinal perspective. In southwest and Native American cuisine yucca finds its way on the plate from the root, the stalk, the seed, and the fruit of the tree. The fruit can be eaten raw, or it can be baked, sautéed, or roasted. It can also be mashed or pureed. The stalk is also good to eat and can be roasted whole and then peeled and diced into cubes which can then be eaten or added to soups and stews. The seeds can be roasted and ground into flour and then used to make tortillas or flat breads. The roots are better used medicinally as they tend to be more bitter and contain saponins.
From a health perspective, Yucca is pretty amazing. It contains quite a few polyphenols, the most popular of which is resveratrol, the same chemical compound found in red wine and various other fruits and berries. In Native tradition Yucca has been used for arthritis, inflammation, and digestive issues. It is also used to treat skin conditions like rashes and sores. NIH has conducted research on the polyphenols found in the yucca tree and have so far found that yucca seems to have anti-arthritic and anti-inflammatory properties. Studies also show beneficial impact on high cholesterol, diabetes, and poor circulation.
The saponins in the yucca plant also make it a great soap, and it has been used traditionally as shampoo and skin cleaner by tribes native to the Mojave desert... I’m tempted to try this one. I’m always on the look out for fun and interesting ways to make natural products for hair and skin.
So, as you can see, if you ever find yourself wandering through the southwest deserts, you may want to keep an eye out for the “Spanish Bayonet” so you can have some yummy food, keep your cholesterol in check and make your hair all clean and shiny. (: