The Bitter, Sweet Truth About Aloe

We swallow greedily any lie that flatters us, but we sip only little by little at a truth we find bitter.
-Denis Diderot

You probably know that the word “aloe” comes from the Arabic term alloeh, which means “shining bitter substance,” and “vera” comes from the Latin word veritas, meaning “truth.” It’s true that bitter is an adjective that can really pack a negative punch, but to say that bitter is always a bad thing is a shameful generalization.

Aloe may have been originally named after the acrid taste of the inedible part of its leaves, but the sweet truth of the matter is that it has for centuries been used to improve the health of its enthusiasts — as a burn remedy, as a moisturizer, or for its digestive benefits, to name a few. The 200-plus nutrients that make up the powerful inner gel have long been looked to for benefiting the body both internally and externally.

Likewise, modern research has revealed to us the truth about another bitter that you will be all the better for getting a taste for — bitter greens. These include members of the chicory genus (endive, escarole), dandelion and turnip greens, kale and cress … and that’s just to start with. Nutritional studies are showing that, while these dark vegetables may take your palate some getting used to, they are loaded with multiple vitamins, high in fiber, are a source of anticarcinogens, and much, much more.

So even though it gets a bad rap, it can be said that bitterness truly has a sweet side … namely, that digesting it is something of a cleansing experience — whether we’re talking about a bitter truth, or a heaping bowl of fresh, bitter greens. We need that astringent element to balance out our lives every now and again.

In keeping with the theme, and as a nod to our favorite “bitter” plant, aloe vera, we have created a spinach and bitter green salad with a fresh raspberry-aloe vinaigrette. Try this recipe the next time your everyday routine needs a bracing, bittersweet smack in the face.

For the salad:

  • 3 cups  fresh baby spinach

  • 1 endive, chopped

  • ½ head escarole, chopped

  • handful arugula

  • ½ small radicchio, ,chopped

  • handful watercress, coarse stems discarded, leaves chopped

  • ¼ cup fresh mint, chopped

  • 1 large ripened heirloom tomato, sliced

For the Dressing:

  • ½ pint raspberries

  • 2 tablespoons Lily of the Desert Aloe Vera Juice or Gel

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot

  • 2 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar

  • coarse salt and ground pepper

This will make about four servings: wash all the greens and toss into a large salad bowl. In a mixing bowl, whisk together extra-virgin olive oil, minced shallot, vinegar, salt, and pepper. In a separate bowl, roughly mash raspberries with a fork. Pour dressing mixture over berries, stir together, and let sit in refrigerator for up to 2 hours to let the flavors blend. Before serving the salad, take dressing from the refrigerator, give it one last whisk, and serve over your beautiful bitter greens!

Traditional Aloe Vera Juices