What is Agave Nectar?

Tequila is made from blue agave.

Agave nectar is derived from the agave plant of a botanical genus, which belongs to the agavaceae family. The plant’s nectar, often called agave syrup, is used as a natural sweetener. Agave plants grow primarily in Mexico, although southern areas of the United States are also capable of producing them. Nectar is grown from several species of agave.

The core of the agave plant contains the sap that is turned into agave nectar.

Agave nectar is often associated with tequila, as tequila is derived from blue agave. Agave nectar, however, can be obtained from many other agave plants besides blue agave. Another misconception about agave nectar and tequila is that they come from a cactus. Agave plants look like a cactus or yucca, but they are not. Many people refer to the agave plant as “American aloe”, as both the aloe plant and the agave plant are “succulents” – plants that retain liquid.

Agave nectar is often used to sweeten drinks in place of sugar.

Sweeter than honey but less gelatinous, agave nectar is often used in teas and other hot and cold drinks as it dissolves quickly. Other culinary uses can include using it as a topping for cakes and baked goods. Breakfast items — like waffles or pancakes — that some people regularly top with honey can be topped with agave syrup. Dark agave syrups have a caramel flavor and are often used in desserts. It is also used as a topping ingredient for poultry, seafood or meat dishes.

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Honey has a much higher glucose content than agave syrup.

Agave syrup is usually obtained from agave plants that have reached an age of approximately seven years. After the plant matures, its leaves are cut to reveal the core. The core – the piña – resembles an enormous pineapple and can weigh approximately 100 pounds (45.36 kg).

Agave sweetener is not sold directly from the agave plant; it goes through several processes first. Agave sap is first extracted from its core, filtered and heated. At this point, the carbohydrates in the nectar are broken down into sugars. The main ingredients in agave nectar are fructose and glucose, with fructose levels generally much higher. Fructose and glucose levels typically depend on which breed of agave plant the nectar is extracted from.

Agave syrup can be a healthy alternative to refined sugar to sweeten coffee and tea.

Vegans and raw eaters are particularly drawn to agave sweetener as a honey substitute. The production process includes heating the syrup at a low temperature to protect its natural enzymes. Thus, agave nectar is often considered a raw food.

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