SUMMARY: Yucca in Michigan?

Paul Harvey pharvey at
Thu Jun 3 14:43:02 EST 1993

Yucca is one of the great American plants, and yet little studied - many
species are still in dispute.

The best for fruit is Y. baccata known as Banana yucca. Fruit is quite
variable, from bland to too sweet to dry to moist to nice tropical
"banana" type flavors. From Cornucopia [ISBN:0-9628087-0-9]: Fleshy
fruits are sweet and can be used in pies. The pulp is scraped out and
dried for later use or boiled down to a paste, molded into cakes and
then dried. They are later eaten as sweetmeats. Flowers and tender
flower stalks are also eaten. SW NAm.

Probably the best know yucca is Y. brevifolia known as the Joshua tree
of the Mojave desert of California. Cornucopia: The flower clusters,
before the buds open, can be parboiled in salt water to remove the
bitterness, drained, and cooked again and served like cauliflower.
Opened buds, which are rich in sugar, are roasted and eaten as candy.
Roots are eaten raw, boiled, or roasted. Seeds are also edible. SW NAm.

Additional yuccas mentioned in Cornucopia as edible:

Y. aloifolia - Spanish bayonet, Spanish dagger. Crisp flower petals are
eaten raw in salads. Flowers are dipped in egg batter and fried. After
peeling, the flower stalk is boiled and eaten. Florida, Caribbean.
Y. elata - Soap-tree yucca. The flowers are eaten raw or in preserves.
Fruits are edible raw or cooked. An extract of the roots is used to
produce foam in beverages. SW NAm.
Y. elephantipes - Spanish dagger, Izote. After removing the bitter
anthers and ovaries, the flowers are dipped in egg batter and fried.
Rich in vitamin C and niacin, they are also added to salads, soups, and
stews. The tender stem tips stripped of their leaves, called cogollo de
izote, are eaten in El Salvador. Cen. Am.
Y. filamentosa - Adam's needle, Eve's thread. Large, fleshy fruits are
eaten. Flowers make a tasty and attractive addition to salads. SW NAm.
Y. glauca - Soapweed yucca. Immature fruits are peeled, boiled, and
served with butter and seasonings. The young flower stalk is cooked and
the whitish inner portion eaten. Flowers and flower buds are eaten raw
in salads or cooked as a potherb. NAm.
Y. schidigera - Spanish dagger, Wild date. Young stems are chopped and
cooked or baked like a sweet potato. Fruits and flowers are eaten raw or
in jellies. SW NAm.

Of course, this is only scratching the surface. Hortus III claims about
forty species. Yucca are members of the Agavaceae family which are giant
succulents closely related to the lily family.

A previous poster brought up the fact that the Spanish word yuca (jooka)
is also used for the roots of the tropical Manihot esculenta known as
cassava, manioc or yuca. The roots of manioc and true yucca are very
similar and are typically used as one would use a potato. I believe the
roots sold in Cal as yucca in Chinese and Hispanic stores actually are a
yucca species grown in SW Mexico, but they may just be manioc also.

More information about the Plantbio mailing list