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Agave tequilana, commonly called blue agave, tequila agave, mezcal or maguey is an agave plant that is an important economic product of Jalisco, Mexico, due to its role as the base ingredient of tequila, a popular distilled spirit. The high production of sugars—mostly in the form of fructose—in the core of this plant is the most important characteristic of the plant making it suitable for the preparation of alcoholic beverages.
The tequila agave is a native of Jalisco, Mexico. The tequila agave favors high altitudes of more than 1,500 meters and grows in rich and sandy soils. While commercial and wild agaves have different life cycles, both grow into large succulents, with spiky fleshy leaves, that can reach over two meters in height. Wild agaves, however, sprout a shoot when about five years old that can grow an additional five meters and are topped with yellow flowers.
The flowers are pollinated by a native bat (Leptonycteris nivalis) and produce several thousand seeds per plant. The plant then dies. The shoots are removed when about a year old from commercial plants to allow the heart to grow larger. The plants are then reproduced by planting these shoots; this has led to a considerable loss of genetic diversity in cultivated blue agave.
It is rare for one kept as a houseplant to flower; nevertheless, a 50-year old blue agave in Boston grew a 10 m (30 ft) stalk requiring a hole in the greenhouse roof and flowered in the summer of 2006.
Tequila is produced by removing the heart of the plant in its twelfth year. Normally weighing between 35–90 kg (77–198 lb). This heart is stripped of its leaves and heated to remove the sap, which is fermented and distilled. Other beverages like mezcal and pulque are also produced from blue and other agaves by different methods (though still using the sap) and are regarded as more traditional.
Researchers from Mexico's University of Guadalajara believe blue agave contains compounds that may be useful in carrying drugs to the intestines to treat diseases, such as Crohn's disease and colitis.
As agave production has moved to an industrial scale since the end of 1980s, diseases and pests, collectively referred to as TMA (tristeza y muerte de agave, "wilting and death of agave"), have hit the crops. Through the 1990s, diseases spread, particularly Fusarium fungi and Erwinia bacteria, exacerbated by the low genetic diversity of the agave plants. Other problems include the agave weevil, Scyphophorus acupunctatus, and a fungus, Thielaviopsis paradoxa.
- ^ Johnson, Carolyn Y. (July 11, 2006). "What's really up on Beacon Hill: 50-year-old plant starts its blooming finale". The Boston Globe. http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2006/07/11/whats_really_up_on_beacon_hill/. Retrieved 2006-07-11.
- ^ "See the 50-year-old agave blooming video from YouTube". http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6idrlI9erV0.
- ^ Reference, Chicago Sun-Times Sun April 1, 2007 p. 6A, or announcement made at ACS's annual meeting March 2007 in Chicago.
- ^ Dalton, Rex (2005-12-22). "Alcohol and science: Saving the agave". Nature 438 (7071): 1070–1071. doi:10.1038/4381070a. ISSN 0028-0836. PMID 16371973.
- ^ Altuzar, A.; E. A. Malo, H. Gonzalez-Hernandez, J. C. Rojas (2007). "Electrophysiological and behavioural responses of Scyphophorus acupunctatus (Col., Curculionidae) to Agave tequilana volatiles". Journal of Applied Entomology 131 (2): 121–127. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0418.2006.01135.x.
- ^ Martinez-Ramirez, J.; P. Posos-Ponce, J. Robles-Gomez, K. Beas-Ruvalcaba, L. Fucikovsky-Zak. "Base leaf spot and a black rot of agave caused by Thielaviopsis paradoxa". Phytopathology. 96. 2006 American Phytopathological Society Annual Meeting. Quebec City, Canada. pp. S74. doi:10.1094/PHYTO.2006.96.6.S1. http://apsjournals.apsnet.org/doi/pdf/10.1094/PHYTO.2006.96.6.S1.
- ^ Jimenez-Hidalgo, I., Virgen, G., Martinez, D., Vandemark, G.J., Alejo, J., Olalde, V. (March 2004). "Identification and characterization of soft rot bacteria of agave tequilana weber var.azul". European Journal of Plant Pathology 110: 317–331. doi:10.1023/B:EJPP.0000019791.81935.6d. http://www.ars.usda.gov/research/publications/publications.htm?SEQ_NO_115=142278.
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