Agaves

Agaves are not only an endemic species of Mexico, but an irreplaceable part of the Mexican culture and landscape.

Agaves are not only an endemic species of Mexico, but an irreplaceable part of the Mexican culture and landscape. Agaves are not only used to produce spirit beverages. Throughout history these plants have mingled with Natives from central Mexico in many ways. There is evidence that some species were being cultivated by 200 b.C., and its use was extensive and of such paramount importance in pre-Columbian days that it was considered just as sacred as Maize.

Nowadays it is still a very useful plant for many purposes. It is used as food and its sap has medicinal properties. Fabrics, ropes and threads are made from its fibers; some species are used as ornaments and some communities use the dry, stiff leaves as roofs.

Agave tequilana, agave angustifolia, agave atrovirens Kawr, agave lemannii, agave cochlearis and agave lattisima Jacobii varieties are used to produce alcoholic drinks: tequila, mezcal and pulque among others. Other varieties such as agave furcroydes or agave sisal are used profusely in the textile indusry.

In Latin America they are commonly known as Maguey, but this name comes from the Antilles and was the name with which the plant was first presented to the Spanish. When they reached other parts of the continent and saw similar plants, thy simply applied the same name. Agave on the other hand, is the scientific name and comes from Greek, meaning noble. In Mexico there are several names: Metl in Nahuatl (Aztec language), Tocamba in Purepecha (language from Western Mexico) and Guada in Otomi (language from the Central Plateau).

Agaves are a big plant family with essential differences in size, color and reproduction. They are suculent plants, meaning that they store water; they grow preferably in semidry weather, on clay soils of volcanic origin, rich in iron. Its growth is slow and they reach maturity after 8 or 10 years. They blossom only once, rising their flower on a long stem, reaching up to 30 feet at times from the center.

If you take an excursion through the countryside, beyond the Sierra Madre, you'll be able to see entire fields dedicated to this crop, but if you reach Tequila town premises, you'll see that the landscape turns beautifully blue. Here it was where the distillation process of the fermented juices of the blue agave was developed, back in the 18th century, originating the drink that identifies Mexico all over.

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