Agave is a plant from the lily family, although until recently, owing to its appearance, it was considered part of the cactus family. It is a native of Mexico and was brought to Europe in the mid-1500s. It can be found in southern and western parts of the United States and in central and tropical areas of South America.
Some species of agave, such as Agave sisalana, produce a shiny white fiber and some, such as blue agave (Agave tekuilana), produce sweet syrup. These plants have large fleshy leaves with a sharp tip and spiny edges. The thick stem is usually short and leaves seem to grow directly from the root. Along with plants from the related genus Yucca, various species of agave are popular as ornamental plants. During flowering a tall stalk rises from the center of the plant bearing a large number of small flowers. After fruit develops, the original plant dies, but shoots often appear from the main stem giving rise to new plants. Agave can take up to 40 years to flower, which is why it is often mistakenly thought to be a cactus. Since it is a native of the desert, agave is resistant to great temperature variations and extremely hot weather.
The center of the agave leaf is rich in saccharine and is very tasty when roasted. The seeds are ground into flour that can be used to make pasta for soup, or if mixed with wheat or oat flour, to make bread. Agave syrup or nectar is taken from the stalks of the plant and is used as a natural sweetener with a mild flavor and light color. It is thinner than honey, but sweeter, so care must be taken to use smaller amounts than with honey.
The ancient Aztecs used a mixture of agave syrup and salt to heal wounds and as a salve for skin infections. Modern medicine has also confirmed the benefits of agave syrup when fighting purulent and intestinal bacteria. Agave nectar comes from sap in the leaves. Leaves between 7 and 14 years old are cut out and when the sap has been removed, the leaves are dried and ground into powder. The syrup is filtered and then heated at a low temperature to separate polysaccharides from ordinary sugar. The main polysaccharide in agave nectar is inulin, consisting primarily of fructose. The filtered syrup varies from light- to dark-yellow in color, depending on how it is processed.
Owing to its low glycemic index, agave syrup is ideal for diabetics and people who are hypersensitive to sugar. The glycemic index indicates the speed and intensity of the rise in blood glucose after consuming certain foods. For the sake of comparison, the glycemic index of agave syrup is 27, honey is 83 and white sugar is 137.
Agave is already highly recognized in the world as a very healthy and medicinal plant, which is why we sincerely recommend that you replace the “white evil” known as sugar entirely with agave syrup.