Friday, April 17, 2015

Agaves

Hello, everyone.

I was recently lucky enough to hear a talk about Agaves--the plant family, not just the agaves themselves. The speaker was the naturalist Benito Trevino. He has a native plant nursery and much knowledge and experience with yuccas, cacti, and so on. His talks are always full of interesting new things--well, new to me!

I learned that yucca blossoms are more tasty after the buds fully open, and that the yucca stalk can be roasted, but it will be very fibrous like sugar cane stems. (For those readers who find sugar cane available to snack on. For the rest, the method is to chew a chunk of the pith, and then after the tasty sweetness is gone from it, to discard the fiber.) The yucca leaves have usable fibers in them, too, but it's not as strong as the fibers in other plants, like agaves.

Blooming yuccas in springtime, 2003
The petals of the yucca blossoms are good to add into salads, put into sandwiches, cook in scrambled eggs, and--new to me!--use in a dill pickle recipe. Maybe I should try that next year! It can't be any more difficult than making pickled garlic. (Funny how long it takes to get the pickled garlic eaten, though.) I could put out dishes of yucca pickles when my in-laws come to visit.

I also learned things about the agaves we know and love in our gardens.

The standard Blue Agave is the one they make tequila from.
Dec 25, 2004 Agave in Snow
Another kind of agave is the source of the Sisal fiber that we see in so many woven mats these days. He passed around a section of sisal rope and the fibers felt like waxier linen to me.

He told us that all of the agaves are limited to one bloom. Raising the bloom stalk and ripening the seeds consumes all of the stored food in the plant and it shrivels up and dies after that. The pups (baby plants) at the base are the usual way people get new agave plants.

I guess that means I need to adjust to losing my Queen Victoria agave when the seed pods ripen. (As you remember, it is sending up a bloom stalk. I will take a photo when there are flowers--as of this morning, it's a 7 foot tall pole with nothing to show at the top yet.) If anyone knows a way to grow the seeds of the Queen Victoria agave, I'd really like to try and raise the babies of this plant. It's really pretty, and everybody says that when the seed pods ripen the mother plant will die. I have no pups at the base, so if the seeds won't grow that will be it.