Survival Foraging & Gardening

Survival Skills: How to Use Yucca

Abundant throughout the U.S., the many species of yucca hold useful attributes beneath their spiny exterior.

These large perennial plants grow from coast to coast, naturalized as far north as New England. Whether you are fighting your way through an emergency, or you are just living off the land because you like it, the leaves, flowers, roots, and stalks of yucca can provide you with valuable food and supplies.

The easiest way to use yucca is to harvest it for food, and on most species, the edible part is the flower. In many places, these creamy white-colored, large flowers bloom in early summer. Just pick the petals, wash the bugs off and throw them in a salad. Better yet, battered and deep fried yucca petals really become a treat. Some southwestern yucca species have a marginally edible seed pod after the flowers are gone, but these are not widely liked or endorsed by any foraging experts, myself included.

Fiber and Soap
The green, sword-like leaves of yucca are loaded with fiber. Not the kind you eat, but the kind of fiber used for making cord and rope. Find some dead leaves that have weathered a bit, and you can pull the loosened fibers apart easily. Green leaves take a little more work to coax into a rope, but the resulting rope is much stronger than weathered yucca fiber rope. To collect the green fiber, you’ll need to scrape the leaves with a dull knife against a flat surface to remove most of the green material, then you can slice the leaf into strips to twist into rope. Save the green goop that you scrape out of the leaves. Added to a little water, yucca leaf paste makes a passable soap. The root is a better choice for soap on most species. Chop the top off the plant, dig up the root and crush a few pieces of yucca root in water to make a potato smelling cleanser. It’s worth noting here, that the yucca root commonly found in grocery stores is not the root that we are talking about here. It just has the same name.

The flower stalks that produce the flowers from the center of each yucca plant can have a whole new life after they have died and dried up. Once these stalks turn from green to grey in late summer, straight sections can be cut and used for hand drills and bow drills for friction fire making. These are some of the best drills in the country, and quickly become the favored drill for most fire makers.

Do you have another use for yucca? Please share it by leaving a comment.