The yucca plant can be found throughout much of the United States,...
In our first post about Yucca plants, we showed how to turn the fibrous leaves into improvised cordage, which is an invaluable skill if you’re going to be trying to survive in a desert environment. However, there are many other Yucca uses, from food to fire-starting. This plant is jam-packed with useful materials and resources.
First of all, Yucca can be made into primitive soap or shampoo. There’s even a variety of Yucca called “soaptree” due to its high saponin content. Just grind and squeeze Yucca roots, as seen in the video below:
Secondly, Yucca plants feature some edible components. Specifically, the white Yucca flowers can be boiled, roasted, or eaten raw (although raw flowers may taste bitter and cause a stomach ache for some). Here’s a recipe for sauteed Yucca flowers with chipotle and garlic, if you want to get all epicurean. The Yucca fruits can also be cooked or eaten raw, and seeds can be roasted, ground, and boiled. Even the young flower stalks are edible.
The dry brown leaves, fibers, and stalks of Yucca plants make for excellent tinder material for starting fires. In fact, the wood in a dry Yucca stalk has one of the lowest kindling points of any type of wood, so it ignites very easily. Just grab some dry Yucca leaves or wood and hit them with your favorite fire-starter—you’ll have a crackling fire going in no time.
Yucca juice can even be used to stun or kill fish, and has been used for this purpose by many Native American tribes. If you extract the liquid from crushing Yucca leaves or roots (as seen in the soap video above), and then pour it into streams or ponds with a high density of fish, those fish will be temporarily paralyzed and can be collected easily. It’s theorized that this was one of the earliest methods of fish farming in the Americas.
Note: poisoning fish is illegal, so only use this method as a last resort if you need food to survive.
Finally, here’s some icing on the cake: the Yucca plant (not to be confused with Yuca, a different species also known as Cassava) is a close relative to the Agave, which is the key to creating Tequila. Now, we wouldn’t recommend trying to brew up some Yucca moonshine, but in theory it could be done. Just sayin’.