Friday Fact: The Enormous Agave Flower
January 22, 2011
There's nowhere better to learn about the miraculous spiky plant that give us Tequila than the agave growing estates of Jalisco, Mexico. There is one thing, however, you wont see anywhere agave is cultivated--the flower that is produced when the plant reaches sexual maturity.Depending on the the climate, soil, and other factors, Blue Weber agaves can take anywhere from 5 to 50 years (usually 8-12) to mature. In the wild the stalk shoots up, the plant flowers, and bats come in to pollenate. On estates, however, It is precisely at this point, before the flowering occurs, that Jimadors come in to harvest the agave. While it might seem strange to prevent your crop from naturally propagating itself, timing the harvest this way is absolutely essential.The stalk that is produced when an agave flowers is so large (commonly over 10 ft), and grows so fast (as little as 3 or 4 days) that the effort of flowering actually kills the rest of the plant by siphoning away essential nutrients. Moreover, these nutrients (mostly sugars) are essential to Tequila production. Without them, there is nothing to ferment, distill, bottle and enjoy. Watch this video of a 30ft agave stalk that sprouted in Boston greenhouse and you'll understand how the process can be so draining on the plant.
To learn more about how agaves do reproduce when they are being grown on estates, check out this old blog post.