Agave

Botanical Name :Agave tequilana
Family:    Asparagaceae
Subfamily:Agavoideae
Genus:    Agave
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Asparagales
Species: A. tequilana

Common Names: blue agave, tequila agave, mezcal or maguey is

Habitat:The tequila agave is a native of Jalisco, Mexico.

Description:
Agave  is a genus of monocots. The plants are perennial, but each stem flowers once and then dies; they are commonly known as century plant.

Chiefly Mexican, agaves occur also in the southern and western United States and in central and tropical South America. They are succulents with a large rosette of thick fleshy leaves, each ending generally in a sharp point and with a spiny margin; the stout stem is usually short, the leaves apparently springing from the root. Along with plants from the related genus Yucca, various Agave species are popular ornamental plants.

Each rosette is monocarpic and grows slowly to flower only once. During flowering, a tall stem or “mast” grows from the center of the leaf rosette and bears a large number of shortly tubular flowers. After development of fruit, the original plant dies, but suckers are frequently produced from the base of the stem, which become new plants.

It is a common misconception that agaves are cacti. They are not related to cacti, nor are they closely related to Aloe whose leaves are similar in appearance.

You may click to see the picture

In the APG III system, the genus is placed in the subfamily Agavoideae of the broadly circumscribed family Asparagaceae. Some authors prefer to place it in the segregate family Agavaceae. Traditionally, it was circumscribed to comprise about 166 species, but it is now usually understood to have about 208 species.

Agave tequilana is an agave plant that is an important economic product of Jalisco, Mexico, due to its role as the base ingredient of tequila, a popular distilled spirit. The high production of sugars—mostly in the form of fructose—in the core of this plant is the most important characteristic of the plant making it suitable for the preparation of alcoholic beverages.

The tequila agave favors high altitudes of more than 1,500 meters and grows in rich and sandy soils. While commercial and wild agaves have different life cycles, both grow into large succulents, with spiky fleshy leaves, that can reach over two meters in height. Wild agaves, however, sprout a shoot when about five years old that can grow an additional five meters and are topped with yellow flowers…..CLICK & SEE

The flowers are pollinated by a native bat (Leptonycteris nivalis) and produce several thousand seeds per plant. The plant then dies. The shoots are removed when about a year old from commercial plants to allow the heart to grow larger. The plants are then reproduced by planting these shoots; this has led to a considerable loss of genetic diversity in cultivated blue agave.

It is rare for one kept as a houseplant to flower; nevertheless, a 50-year old blue agave in Boston grew a 10 m (30 ft) stalk requiring a hole in the greenhouse roof and flowered in the summer of 2006.

Commonly grown species:
The most commonly grown species include Agave americana, Agave angustifolia, Agave tequilana, and Agave attenuata.

Agave americana:
One of the most familiar species is Agave americana, a native of tropical America. Common names include century plant, maguey (in Mexico), or American aloe (it is not, however, closely related to the genus Aloe). The name “century plant” refers to the long time the plant takes to flower. The number of years before flowering occurs depends on the vigor of the individual plant, the richness of the soil and the climate; during these years the plant is storing in its fleshy leaves the nourishment required for the effort of flowering.

Agave americana, century plant, was introduced into Europe about the middle of the 16th century, and is now widely cultivated for its handsome appearance; in the variegated forms, the leaf has a white or yellow marginal or central stripe from base to apex. As the leaves unfold from the center of the rosette, the impression of the marginal spines is very conspicuous on the still erect younger leaves. The tequ plants are usually grown in tubs and put out in the summer months, but in the winter require protection from frost. They mature very slowly and die after flowering, but are easily propagated by the offsets from the base of the stem.

Agave attenuata:
A. attenuata is a native of central Mexico and is uncommon in its natural habitat. Unlike most species of Agave, A. attenuata has a curved flower spike from which it derives one of its numerous common names – the foxtail agave. A. attenuata is also commonly grown as a garden plant. Unlike many agaves, A. attenuata has no teeth or terminal spines, making it an ideal plant for areas adjacent to footpaths. Like all agaves, A. attenuata is a succulent and requires little water or maintenance once established.
Taxonomy:
In the Cronquist system and others, Agave was placed in the family Liliaceae, but phylogenetic analyses of DNA sequences later showed that it did not belong there.[6] In the APG II system, Agave was placed in the family Agavaceae. When this system was superseded by the APG III system in 2009, Agavaceae was subsumed into the expanded family Asparagaceae, and Agave was treated as one of 18 genera in the subfamily Agavoideae.[4]

Agave had long been treated as a genus of about 166 species, but it is now known that this concept of Agave is paraphyletic over the genera Manfreda, Polianthes, and Prochnyanthes. These genera are now combined with Agave as Agave sensu lato, which contains about 208 species. In some of the older classifications, Agave was divided into two subgenera, Agave and Littaea, based on the form of the inflorescence. These two subgenera are probably not monophyletic.

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Agaves have long presented special difficulties for taxonomy; variations within a species may be considerable, and a number of named species are of unknown origin and may just be variants of original wild species.

Spanish and Portuguese explorers probably brought agave plants back to Europe with them, but the plants became popular in Europe during the 19th century, when many types were imported by collectors. Some have been continuously propagated by offset since then, and do not consistently resemble any species known in the wild, although this may simply be due to the differences in growing conditions in Europe.

Agave tequilana:
Agave azul (blue agave) is used in the production of tequila.

Click to see the picture....

Edible Uses:
Edible Four major parts of the agave are edible: the flowers, the leaves, the stalks or basal rosettes, and the sap (called aguamiel—honey water). (Davidson 1999)

Each agave plant will produce several pounds of edible flowers during its final season. The stalks, which are ready during the summer, before the blossom, weigh several pounds each. Roasted, they are sweet and can be chewed to extract the aguamiel, like sugarcane. When dried out, the stalks can be used to make didgeridoos. The leaves may be collected in winter and spring, when the plants are rich in sap, for eating. The leaves of several species also yield fiber: for instance, Agave rigida var. sisalana, sisal hemp, Agave decipiens, false sisal hemp. Agave americana is the source of pita fiber, and is used as a fiber plant in Mexico, the West Indies and southern Europe.

During the development of the inflorescence, there is a rush of sap to the base of the young flower stalk. Agave syrup (also called agave nectar) is used as an alternative to sugar in cooking and it can be added to breakfast cereals as a binding agent. In the case of A. americana and other species, this is used in Mexico and Mesoamerica in the production of the beverage pulque. The flower shoot is cut out and the sap collected and subsequently fermented. By distillation, a spirit called mezcal is prepared; one of the best-known forms of mezcal is tequila. In 2001, the Mexican Government and European Union agreed upon the classification of tequila and its categories. All 100% blue agave tequila must be made from the Weber blue agave plant, to rigorous specifications and only in certain Mexican states.

Medicinal Uses:
. Leaf tea or tincture taken orally is used to treat constipation and excess gas. It is also used as a diuretic. Root tea or tincture is taken orally to treat arthritic joints. Several agave species are also considered to have potential as effective bioenergy crops.

Researchers from Mexico’s University of Guadalajara believe blue agave contains compounds that may be useful in carrying drugs to the intestines to treat diseases, such as Crohn’s disease and colitis.

Agave nectar, obtained from the juice of agave species, mainly the blue agave, Agave tequilana. Agave syrups are sweeter than sugar, so less can be used to reduce caloric intake. Agave is favored as a sweetener to replace honey by vegans and is used in many natural and organic food products as a sweetener.

Increasing evidence now suggests that the rise in consumption of carbohydrates, particularly refined sugars high in fructose, are a very important contributing factor in the development of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Agave can certainly be as a healthy alternative to HFS, due the fact that is has a low glycemic index, helping to prevent spikes in blood sugar. Is agave a good alternative for diabetics? The answer, sadly may be no. Agave nectar composition varies, but typically is primarily fructose, which can still cause problems for diabetics, if consumed without care. Adding to the problem, unscrupulous companies have been know to add other sugars like maple syrup without labeling as such.

Agave is favored as a sweetener to replace honey by vegans and is used in many natural and organic food products. Agave nectar is obtained from the juice of the blue agave, Agave tequilana. Agave syrups are sweeter than sugar, so less can be used to reduce caloric intake.

Increasing evidence now suggests that the rise in consumption of carbohydrates, particularly refined sugars high in fructose, are a very important contributing factor in the development of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Agave is used as a healthier alternative to refined sugars in part because of it’s low glycemic index which helps to prevent spikes in blood sugar. Is agave a good alternative for diabetics? The answer, sadly may be no. Agave is certainly a great improvement over HFS and cane sugar, however Agave nectar typically is primarily fructose, which can still cause problems for diabetics if consumed without care. Adding to the problem, unscrupulous companies have been known to add other sugars like maple syrup without labeling as such. So buyer beware! Only purchase agave syrup from a trusted source and monitor your blood sugar carefully to assess its impact on you.

Other Uses:
Tequila is produced by removing the heart of the plant in its twelfth year. Normally weighing between 35–90 kg (77–198 lb). This heart is stripped of its leaves and heated to remove the sap, which is fermented and distilled. Other beverages like mezcal and pulque are also produced from blue and other agaves by different methods (though still using the sap) and are regarded as more traditional.

When dried and cut in slices, the flowering stem forms natural razor strops, and the expressed juice of the leaves will lather in water like soap. The natives of Mexico used the agave to make pens, nails and needles, as well as string to sew and make weavings.

Agave species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera (butterfly and moth) species including Batrachedra striolata, which has been recorded on A shawii.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is  always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agave

http://www.anniesremedy.com/herb_detail515.php

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