MAGUEY AGAVES (Leaves, pulque)

Maguey is the name assigned to various types of agave plants.
Mexico is the center of origin, domestication and spread of the maguey.
Pre-Hispanic peoples called these plants metl or mexcametl (in Nahuatl), tocamba (in Purépecha) and guada (in Otomí). Beverage production has made them famous: mead (neutli) and its fermented product, pulque (octli), and later, mescal distillates (the spirits known as mezcal, tequila and bacanora). Sixteenth-century Spanish conquerors called the plant maguey, a name that arose as the plant made its way through the West Indies.
Maguey plants are characteristic to Mexico’s arid and semi-arid landscapes that feature temperate to cold temperatures as well as dry, hard soils. They contribute to soil conservation and retention and in certain regions they are used to form levees or terraces that prevent erosion and run-off. Maguey cultivation expands agricultural production in both hot and cold zones.
Maguey agaves feature thick, fleshy leaves that grow in a rosette formation and feature a straight thorn at the leaf’s end point as well as several lateral, hook-shaped thorns. The leaves grow from a short stem whose lower extremity, called the piña, does not generally protrude from the ground.
Maguey agaves are propagated with cuttings.
After it flowers, the plant starts to die. The flowers are known as gualumbos, hualumbos, or patas de gallina de cerro; they are small, light yellow, and edible; are harvested during dry seasons, and used in soups, stews, or as antojito and tamal filling. Maguey fungus grows among the plant’s leaves and is also edible—roasted, sautéed, boiled or fried. It can be a complement to atole, antojito and tamal filling, a base for soups, stews, sauces, garnishes or escabeches.
Two types of larva, known as gusanos de maguey, grow on maguey trunks and leaves. One variety, chinicuiles (Cossus redtenbacheri) is red; the other, Aegiale hesperiaris, is white in color; they are harvested in April and May. Both can be grilled or fried, to prepare antojito filling; roasted red worms are ground as a base for hot salsas.
Starting in the sixteenth century, Europeans marveled at the agave’s many uses, a number of which are practiced to this day: leaves are used as fuel or building material (maguey tiles); or roasted as food. Dried, their fibers can be harvested for weaving; they serve as a wrapping for cooking barbecue and other dishes. Maguey leaf cuticles can be used for recipes such as mixiotes. Thorns become pins or needles.
Maguey flower-stalks known as quiotes are barbecued to make sweets; the stems are used as as fuel and as construction beams. Maguey sap binds paint.
Additionally, pulque maguey agaves (Agave salmiana and Agave atrovirens), common in Mexico’s Central Highlands, are converted into the fermented beverage known as pulque, when the plant’s upper leaves are removed and a hole is bored into the piña to extract mead called aguamiel that is subsequently fermented. Pulque consumption continues in rural zones and to a lesser degree in cities.
Pulque is used to prepare barbecue sauces and a number of other dishes, and it is essential to making the pulque bread that is often sold at markets and fairs.

Recipes

Rabbit ximbó