While agave (pronounced ah-GAH-vay) is best recognized as the plant from which tequila is made, it has also been used for thousands of years as an ingredient in food. The nectar made from the plant is known in Mexico as aguamiel, or “honey water.”
The Aztecs prized the agave as a gift from the gods and used the liquid from its core to flavor foods and drinks. Now, due to increasing awareness of agave nectar’s many beneficial properties, it is becoming the preferred sweetener of health conscious consumers, doctors, and natural foods cooks alike.
Where Does Agave Nectar Come From?
Agave nectar (sometimes called agave syrup) is most often produced from the Blue Agaves that thrive in the volcanic soils of Southern Mexico. Agaves are large, spikey plants that resemble cactus or yuccas in both form and habitat, but they are actually succulents similar to the familiar Aloe Vera.
Agaves come in many sizes and colors â€” well over 100 species. Due to the Blue Agave’s high carbohydrate content (which results in a high percentage of fructose in the final nectar), Blue Agave is the preferred species for producing nectar. Though there are other species used to produce agave nectars, such as the Maguey Agave, the premium nectars are produced from 100% Weber Blue Agave.
How is Agave Nectar Made?
When the agave has grown to 7-10 years old, the leaves of the plant are cut off, revealing the core of the plant (called the “pina”). When harvested, the pina resembles a giant pineapple and can weigh in at 50 to 150 pounds.
To make the agave nectar, sap is extracted from the pina, filtered, and heated at a low temperature, which breaks down the carbohydrates into sugars. Lighter and darker varieties of agave nectar are made from the same plants. Because of the low temperatures used in processing many varieties (under 118Â°F) raw foods enthusiasts generally regard agave nectar a