Agave Americana, or simply agave, is a multi-use plant used as a sweetener and medicine. Even the stem of the plant is converted into fibers and then used to make twines and clothes. For this article, however, we will be focusing on the culinary uses of agave. Read on to learn more about this sweet plant.
What is Agave?
The agave plant closely resembles aloe vera because of its thick, fleshy and spiky body. This is also why agave is sometimes known as American aloe.
The word agave translates to ‘noble’, which is the perfect name for a plant that can live up to 40 years and grow up to 18 feet in height.
Agave usually grows in hot and dry areas, and is often called a century plant due to the time it takes to fully develop.
Several parts of the agave plant are used in cooking. Agave flowers can be added to dishes for their aroma as they’re edible. Agave flowers can also be steamed, boiled, or fried. Some people like to add parts of the flower to dishes such as scrambled eggs.
Where is Agave Found?
Native to Mexico, agave is now grown in several parts of the world including California, Northern Mexico, and Arizona. Blue Agave and Agave Americana are the most common species that are used in the culinary world. Agave syrup can be found in most grocery stores or online.
Nowadays, agave is used as a popular substitute for honey in many cuisines. Much like honey, the sap of the mature agave plant is thick in consistency and has a sweet-bitter taste. The plant is known for its honey-like, sweet taste; however, the pollen stems need to be removed as they can be bitter.
Other than its uses in desserts, agave is also used in a variety of products such as:
Pulque, an alcoholic beverage found in Mexico, which is made from the sap of the agave Americana plant. Pulque is made by collecting sap from the agave’s flower shoot, which is then fermented to produce mezcal, a spirit similar to tequila.
Agave paste. The dried head of the agave plant can be boiled and then made into an edible paste, which can then be used either as a spread, or added to soup for a sweet yet slightly bitter flavor.
Agave Syrup. As mentioned before, the consistency and taste of agave is very similar to that of honey. Usually, the heart of the Agave plant, called the ‘pina’ is boiled in water until it melts completely to form a viscous liquid called agave syrup. For this reason, the agave plant is a popular substitute for sugar and is used readily by vegans because of its plant-based properties.