Guava Nectar does magic to Brisket and Butts. I don’t know what the magic of Guava Nectar is but I wouldn’t cook a Butt or a Brisket without it.
Agave is derived from the Greek “agavos” meaning “illustrious.” The Aztec goddess, Mayheul,
represented Agave’s symbol of long life and health, dancing and fertility. For the Nahuatl, the
original inhabitants of western Mexico, the plant was worshipped, representing goddess
Mayaheul’s earthly power of wind, rain and crops.
Human remains dating back at least 10,000 years show the early uses of agave for food and
fiber. The agave plant has long been part of human culture and was already ancient when the
Spaniard Conquistadors arrived in 1492. By 1520, it was exported into the Old World. Agave
is mentioned as a food of the Aztecs and natives in the Florentine Codex of 1580.
Cultivated in the high western areas, the succulent broad-leafed plant grows eight
years to ripen. During the New World exploration in the late 1400’s and early 1500’s,
Spanish conquistadors encountered the Nahuatl-produced fermented agave
beverage ‘pulque’. It’s primarily use was in religious ceremonies and for medicinal
purposes in Nahautl culture. By the late 1500’s, Spaniards running short out of
brandy, searched for fermentable sugars for distilling. They experimented with wild
agave, which was abundant in the volcanic soils in the Sierra Madre region
surrounding Guadalajara. The species that produced the most full-bodied taste was
the Blue Tequilana Weber Agave, the blue agave or agave azul.
By 1600 the first tequila distillery was established by Don Pedro Sanches de
Tagle, Marquis of Altamira. Don Pedro also was the first to begin cultivation
of agave Espadín the processor of Blue Tequilana Weber Agave. In 1636, to
enforce tax collection on production the Governor authorized the distillation of
tequila and mescal. However, in 1785, Spanish rule suppressed tequila
production, banning all native distilled spirits. The ban was lifted in 1792 but
tequila production and agave farming did not flourish again until Mexican
independence in 1821.
By the mid 1800’s agave farming expanded with many tequila distillers
beginning large-scale production. The two first two licensed distillers were Jose Antonio Cuervo in 1758 and Don Cenobio
Sauza in 1873 and remain today major forces of the tequila industry.
By the end of 1800’s, agave farming for tequila had become an important part of
the regional economy. In the 2000’s Agave farming is the dominant agricultural
crop in the state of Jalisco representing about 50 % of the agricultural economy
and part of the social-economic structure includes many agave grower
There are 136 known species of agave, with 13 species prehistorically
domesticated by native inhabitants put to many uses.
Blue Agave, grown in Jalisco, is the only variety used to produce tequila. Historians and ethno-botanists have traced the first
record of cultivated Blue Agave from the wilder Espadín to the 1800s. Blue Agave
was selectively bred for its flavor, relatively short maturation cycle, baking qualities
and compatibility with “industrial” processes. Intensive breeding of the cultivar allowed
it to spread quickly. Interestingly, another name for Blue Agave, Maguey is not a
native Mexican term, rather a word imported from the Antilles.
Salmina, another more historic wild variety, is grown in the state of Qaxaca by
indigenous farmers on steeper hillsides. Salmina is used by Mezcals distilleries.
In the 1990’s a joint private and public effort developed the method and regulations for using Agave to produce the
alternative and organic sweetener agave syrup (link). Today, close to 10 % of total agave production is used for agave
syrup, with most coming from Blue Agave.
For additional information, please see the About Agave section at www.theioaa.com
Agave provides a significant and versatile resource for Mexico, both from an economic and cultural standpoint. Agave
grows over thousands of acres at high altitude, in the red volcanic soils of Central
and Western Mexico, bringing vibrant color and rugged character to the landscape.
Typically planted in rows, agave has spiky blue leaves, called pencas, which
visually, are not unlike those of an aloe plant. Beneath the pencas is the agave
heart, known as the piña.
Agave begins as a seed, and once
transplanted, it grows over 8 feet
tall and wide. It’s ready for harvest
after a minimum of six years.
There are many types of agave. Blue Tequilana Webber Agave, know as
blue agave, is grown in the state of Jalisco and is best known for its
juices, or aguamiel, which is the base for distilling tequila. Originally blue
agave was selectively bred for its short maturation cycle, flavorful baking
qualities and ease of processing.
Salmiana agave, a more wild variety, is grown on the steep hillsides in the states of San Luis
Potosí and Zacatecas. Salmiana is used to make mescal which is a distilled drink. Salmiana’s
appearance is different than blue agave because it grows a tall stock, which reaches up to
twelve feet high as it matures. In addition, the pencas from sisal, or agave sisalana are used
for fibrous creations, such as textiles and papers.
Culturally, the use of agave dates back to the pre-colonial era,
when the piña was used for religious and medical purposes. It was also used as nutrient rich brew known as pulque. In colonial times, the piña found its way into distilleries, and today it is used to
extract inulin, a naturally occurring polysaccharide, and in the
creation of agave syrup. The syrup is the result of development
and regulation done in the 1990’s by Mexico, which was looking for
additional uses of agave. Made chiefly from blue agave, although it
can be made from Salminana, most Mexican agave syrup is
While the desert climate of Mexico can support over one
hundred varieties of agave, the one point two million acres are comprised of
approximately eighty percent blue agave, eighteen percent salmiana and two percent
The planting and harvesting of agave is a process which, stretching back many
centuries, has been unchanged by modern technology, relying primarily on manual
labor. Harvesters, or “jimadores,” hand cut the agave plant with a sharp blade known
as a coa, to reveal the piña, which weights between thirty and one hundred and fifty
To manage demand, most of Mexico’s two hundred thousand agave farmers belong to regional grower cooperatives. Of
these, approximately ten percent of are organic farmers with over one hundred twenty thousand certified acres. A portion
of these farmers have stakes in the syrup plants which process their hard earned agave.
For more detailed information, please see the Plant and Farming section of http://theIOAA.com