Culinary Uses For The Agave Plant
The agave is a desert plant with many culinary uses. Learn about the history of the plant and how the agave is used, including recipes.
Article by: Barbara Bowman
History And Origination Of The Agave Plant
Also known as the Century Plant, the agave family includes over 200 species. The word agave means Noble, clearly an apt description of a plant that can live to be forty years old and grow a flower stalk up to eighteen feet tall or more. Within this large family are two plants most notable for culinary use, the Agave Americana and Agave Deserti. Both of these species are sometimes referred to as maguey.
Where Agave Originated
Most agave originated in Mexico. Today the edible varieties grow in Northern Mexico, California, New Mexico, Arizona and up into southern Utah. 
Early Culinary Uses
The Aztecs used agave to make pulque (a weakly alcoholic version) which was used for ceremonies and banquets. Later the Spanish settlers used the fermented pulque to make mescal and tequila. Women and men over 70 years old could consume as much as they wanted on these special occasions but alcohol was otherwise very controlled for the rest of the population. It was socially acceptable to drink but not acceptable to be drunk. 
The Aztecs had other other uses for the agave as well including the making syrup, sugar, wine and vinegar. In fact, remains of roasted agave were found in caves of the Tehuacan dating back to 6500 B.C. 
The agave was an important food source of the Indians in the Southwestern U.S. According to John F. Mariani, the Apaches place agave crowns into a deep pit with with bear grass. The pit was covered over with soil and and the crowns were roasted for two days. As part of a complex ritual, the center of the crowns would be eaten and some stored for later use. The native Americans also ate the cooked agave leaves like artichokes or sometimes they boiled the leaves down to make a syrup.
More Articles About Mexican Cooking Ingredients
Learn about Mexican cinnamon, referred to as canela. Our specialty canela is perfect for beverages, savory dishes and desserts
Chilaquiles. The dish consists of tortilla strips cooked in a sauce with meats or vegetables, or scrambled with eggs. Includes history of the dish.
Cilantro is the leaves of the Coriander plant and also known as Chinese Parsley. The article discusses history, uses, nutrition and includes recipes
Hispanic Herbs And Seasonings
Authentic Mexican cooking uses a diverse combination of fresh herbs and seasonings. Learn about some of these traditional ingredients.
Learn about Huitlacoche (cuitlacoche) Mexican Corn Truffle (corn fungus).
Information about the Mexican cooking herb, papalo or Papaloquelite