The January Herb of the Month is Agave
Agave, Agave spp.
This succulent, with over 200 different cultivars, originally came from areas in Mexico, Central America and some regions of South America. The rosette formation flowers after about 13 to 18 years, the stalk grows up to 20’ high, and then dies back allowing pups to form and grow around the original base. The flowering agave is a wonderful food source for our native pollinators which includes bats and hummingbirds.
The original inhabitants, from the Incas to the Mayas have used this plant to make alcoholic fermentations of tequila, mezcal and other fermented drinks. These drinks are made from carbohydrate rich center of the plant, a center which can weigh up to 100 lbs. when stripped of its leaves.
The sharp spines at the ends of the leaves have been used for needles, and the multiuse leaf fibers have been fashioned into ropes, or mats, and shoes. The fibers also have a place in papermaking and textile production.
Today, the agave plant orchards are a thriving industry. There is the popularity of tequila and mezcal and, in addition, agave syrup a low glycemic sweetener that is becoming popular with consumers. It is twice as sweet as sugar. The plant provides several B vitamins, vitamin C, and vitamin K. More uses have been found, and it is utilized in the production of moisturizers and shampoos.
Even though the Agave plant is sub-tropical, some species will grow in the Mid-South.
This plant prefers full sun requiring at least 6 hours a day and may need some cover during extreme winter conditions.