Agave tequilana, commonly called blue agave (agave azul) or tequila agave, 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 beverage. The high production of sugars, mostly fructose, in the core of the plant is the main characteristic that makes it suitable for the preparation of alcoholic beverages.
The tequila agave is native to Jalisco, Mexico. The plant favors altitudes of more than 1,500 metres (5,000 ft) and grows in rich and sandy soils. Blue agave plants grow into large succulents, with spiky fleshy leaves, that can reach over 2 metres (7 ft) in height. Agaves sprout a stalk (quiote) when about five years old that can grow an additional 5 metres (16 ft); they are topped with yellow flowers.
This stalk is cut off from commercial plants so the plant will put more energy into the heart.
The flowers are pollinated by a native bat (Leptonycteris nivalis) and produce several thousand seeds per plant. The plant then dies. The shoots on commercial plants are removed when about a year old 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 to be kept as a houseplant to flower, but a 50-year-old blue agave in Boston grew a 30-foot (9 m) stalk requiring a hole in the greenhouse roof and flowered in the summer of 2006.
Tequila is produced by removing the heart (piña) of the plant in its twelfth year. Harvested piñas normally weigh 80–200 pounds (40–90 kg). This heart is stripped of its leaves and heated to remove the sap, which is fermented and distilled.
Pathogens affecting the plant
As agave production has moved to an industrial scale since the end of the 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.
- The Plant List, Agave tequilana
- Gentry, Howard Scott. Agaves of Continental North America. University of Arizona Press, Tucson, 1992.
- Weber, Frederic Albert Constantin. Bulletin du Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle 8(3): 220–223, f. 1–2. 1902.
- Ian Chadwick (2007-06-27). "In Search of the Blue Agave: Harvesting Agave for Tequila". Ianchadwick.com. Retrieved 2011-11-06.
- Johnson, Carolyn Y. (July 11, 2006). "What's really up on Beacon Hill: 50-year-old plant starts its blooming finale". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2012-01-16.
- "See the 50-year-old agave blooming video from YouTube".
- 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. "Phytopathology". 2006 American Phytopathological Society Annual Meeting 96. Quebec City, Canada. pp. S74. doi: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.
- Homoisoflavanones from Agave tequilana Weber. José Antonio Morales-Serna, Armando Jiménez, Rosa Estrada-Reyes, Carmen Marquez, Jorge Cárdenas and Manuel Salmón, Molecules, 2010, volume 15, pages 3295-3301, doi:10.3390/molecules15053295
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Agave tequilana.|