Agave plant has long been cultivated in semi arid soils of Mexico. But also are native to the southern and western United States and Central and tropical South America. They belong to the Agaveace family. Agaves are succulent rosettes, often clumping, occasionally on short trunks. They generally have a sharp spine at the end of their leaves, and for this reason should be away from paths. Each rosette blooms after many years usually 7. The time before flowering is used by the plant to store nutrients and mineral reserves which are then utilized in the formation of the flower stem, which can grow up to 10 meters high. After flowering the mother plant produces offsets and then dies. The shape of the rosette is a defense mechanism; the leaves are usually hard or fairly rigid and fibrous inside and number between 20 and 200 depending on species. Agave nectar is an excellent source of fructose inulin and glucose that are all beneficial for our quest in achieving better health.

Throughout the history of the New World the agave has been closely associated with mankind in a multitude of ways, both with the original inhabitants of Mesoamerica and subsequently with invaders and conquerors from Europe. In the pre conquest era the agave was well established as an important feature of everyday life and religion and played an prominent role in the human sacrifice which especially the Aztecs practiced to an extent which horrified even Cortez and his soldiers. The native Mexican Indians had a complex religion and a formidable array of gods, most of whom appeared to be very bloodthirsty and who needed to be sustained and honored with sacrifices, usually human.

They were represented on earth by priests who were at the top of a very rigid class structure and consequently had many privileges, such as control over land and food distribution, jobs, taxes, and supervision over the allocation and consumption of agave juice. Quetzacoatl, the serpent god, who represented the arts and morality, was the only deity apparently opposed to human sacrifice and paid for his views by being driven out into exile. It was said that his return would coincide with the fall of the Aztec empire. Sacrifice to the god of hunting was preceded by the shooting of many arrows in a chosen specimen of agave. One of the major sacrificial events in the calendar seems to have been the ceremonies in honor of Huitzilopochtli, the god of the sun and of war, who was represented by a hummingbird. These events seem to have been marked by the consumption in large quantities of pulque, an intoxicating, fermented liquid product of the agave. The word Chalchihuatl meaning ‘precious liquid’ was used to refer to the agave juice. It was known that in order to extract the best quality juice it was necessary to castrate the plant by removing the embryonic reproductive structures or the flowering stalk so that flowers and seeds were not produced. The sugar rich nutrients then ebbed from the leaves and flowed into the heart of the plant and produced a beverage of higher quality.

The Aztecs also realised that by castrating these plants they were depriving the pollinating hummingbird Huitzilopochtli of his nourishment and consequently had to make amends by sacrifice. The word Chalchihuatl also came to mean ‘nectar fed to the gods’ in the sense of human blood. Captives of war (the Aztecs would often wage war specifically to increase their stocks of victims intended for sacrifice) were brought to temples at the top of pyramids where they were given pulque to drink and were dedicated to the god. From that time they were considered as carriers of the nectar belonging to the hummingbird god and they lived peacefully, provided with the best food, elegant clothing and maidens as partners until such time as the god required sustenance. At these times, often in famine or war, the victims were again taken to the temples and were given pulque to consume. This time however the circulating agave juice was offered to Huitzilopochtli by priests, whose enthusiasm for sacrifice was fuelled by also drinking pulque, ripping the heart out of the unfortunate, still living victims. The flesh was then cooked and eaten, cannibalism being practiced by the Aztecs on a very wide scale. – by Jan Kolendo

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies sweetened with agave nectar
Makes around 2 1/2 dozen cookies

1 1/2 C whole wheat flour
2 C of rolled oats
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 T cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 C butter, room temperature (you can substitute up to half with the same amount of unsweetened applesauce if you prefer)
1 C pumpkin puree
3/4 C agave nectar
1 egg
1 T molasses
1 t vanilla
1 C chocolate chips or raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices. In a separate bowl, beat the softened butter until light and fluffy. Mix in pumpkin, agave nectar, egg, molasses and vanilla. Add in dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Fold in optional ingredients if using.

Scoop rounded tablespoons of batter onto a baking sheet that is greased or lined with a non-stick baking mat. Flatten the dough with the bottom of a glass (it will not spread while baking). Bake for around 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned.

About zoom50

“It’s amazing how people can get so excited about a rocket to the moon and not give a damn about smog, oil leaks, the devastation of the environment with pesticides, hunger, disease”
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4 Responses to Maguey/Agave/Agavaceae

  1. kimkiminy says:

    Very interesting! We have some sort of yucca plants here. At maturity, they produce a single, enormous flower stalk, sometimes 6 feet high. It’s covered with hundreds of plum-sized white flowers. After blooming, the plant dies.

    I’ve heard that agave nectar is tolerated by diabetics.

    • zoom50 says:

      I think the yucca you’re talking about is agave filmentosa or a similar species. This plant is often referred to as “Lamparas de Dios,” which, in English, translates to “Lanterns of God.”. The young flowers are edible raw or cooked.

      Personally, I have found that agave did not raise my husband’s blood sugar as much as white sugar. I am a believer in Agave… but I hate how much it costs 🙂

  2. akamonsoon says:

    Very interesting history Zoom. We use agave nectar as a sweetener for my husband who is diabetic. I am of course a big fan of the other product we get from it, too; tequila. 😉

    • zoom50 says:

      Isn’t that great? I use agave in almost everything. I love how it tastes, and is really good for your health.
      Lol…Tequila is another great product from agave, too. When I was 29 years-old, I had my first-ever taste of tequila. Oh yes! … I love this drink. 😉

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