Maguey (aka Agave) plants live somewhere between 10 to 25 years –unless, that is, they’re harvested for tequila, or its cousins, mezcal, sotol and pulque (a worthy topic for another blog J). These spiny plants are arguably one of the most useful known to man. They can be planted atop fences for protection, dried-up for rope or used as needle and thread in a pinch. There are recipes for desserts made with its flesh and, as we mentioned, strong drink can be brewed from its juice. It’s a versatile construction material –the leaves can be used as roof tiles and the flower stalk as a house beam. It also serves as a billboard to carve your loved one’s initials. There are quite a few varieties. Blue we all know. There is also the green agave and in the Andean highlands above 9,500 feet grows a variety we call Achupilla, among many others.
When the end is near, a thirty-foot-tall flower stalk shoots-up from the center of the plant. This glorious reproductive display becomes its final act. Not unlike males in some spider and praying mantis species, agave plants go out with a bang. I’ve often thought it a shame that this spectacular growth spurt (massive exrection? –sorry, couldn’t resist) is followed by death. Couldn’t the plant simply forgo this stage and continue living indefinitely? Perhaps, but then, that would be the end of the line. Without the “chahuarquero” (Ecuadorian for agave flower stalk), there would be no new “pencos” (Ecuadorian for agave). And so, in death there is new life. Like a grain of wheat must die in order to become a new plant, so too the penco dies to bring life to the next generation. There’s something beautifully poetic about this thought, don’t you think? And speaking of wheat, I think I’ll grab a donut and ponder the circle of life (get it?) as it applies to my newfound career stage. Heck, a shot of tequila might be the perfect complement.
|Agave Neglecta with Chahuarquero|
|Blue Agave with Chahuqrquero|
|Achupilla with Chahuarquero|