The Long, Hard and Very Worthwhile Task of Cultivating Agave
One of Sugar Foods fastest growing sweeteners is its Naturel® Agave, which is a blend of 90 percent agave and 10 percent natural cane juice. The all-natural sweetener, which is gluten-free and non-GMO, has numerous benefits and uses.
The agave plant has long been sought after for its naturally sweet nectar. This coveted succulent thrives in the rich sandy soils of Mexico, where Sugar Foods sources its Naturel® Agave.
Many people are familiar with agave as the plant that is the basis for tequila. Originating primarily from Mexico and South Africa, the agave plant has to grow 7 – 10 years before its harvested.
After this wait, its leaves are cut off to reveal the core, “la piña,” which contains honey-like nectar. The nectar is then extracted from the piña, filtered, and heated at a very low temperature to turn it into naturally sweet syrup. This simple juice is then concentrated into a thick amber-colored syrup much like honey.
Growing agave plants has not changed much over the years. The tall plants, as high as 12 feet in some cases, produce long, sharp leaves that making harvesting a challenge. There are no machine harvesters; instead, these hand-planted crops are tended by old-fashion manual labor – the same way it has been done for more than 500 years.
In this way it is more like an art form than a science. The knowledge associated with the fluctuations of the weather and the geography, the nuances associated with how each plant grows and when they are ready to cut are not skills one learns in a book.
Agave may look like a large cactus, but in fact is a succulent. Most flower only once in a lifetime. Once known primarily as the basis of tequila, agave is a primary source of insulin as well as a popular sweetener. The hard agave wood has even been used as surfboard material.
Agave nectar is 1.5 to 2 times sweeter than sugar and thus has been viewed as a substitute for those looking to sweeten their foods in a more efficient but no less natural manner. Chefs and bakers have incorporated agave nectar into their commercial cooking facilities; it is a favorite ingredient for vegan cooks looking for a substitute for honey.
Because it dissolves so quickly, agave has also become a popular way to sweeten iced drinks like coffee and tea.
Producing agave syrup may not be as simple as tapping into a maple tree, for instance, but its litany of uses and its growing popularity make it well worth the time and effort. And despite its association with tequila, you don’t have to worry about getting high on agave nectar although you will become happy due to its intense sweetness.