009 (3)The Agave also known as the Century plant was a major source of food and drink for many of the Indian tribes of the southwest. It is often mistaken for the Yucca plant although it is in the same family. The Agave has much thicker blades with spiny edges and grows a very tall flowering stalk with branches near the top. Once the plant blooms it dies.

You can find this plant at altitudes ranging from 2000 to 7000 feet. It grows on hillsides and in lime soils. It is more common in lower cooler valleys and canyons. The Agave has a fairly large range of distribution. Growing from West Texas, Southern Nevada, Southwestern California, and into Mexico. It is mostly found in the dryer deserts of these regions.

The Agave is used in the making of tequila. At the time of bloom when the stalk starts to grow from the center of the rosette, the plant is harvested to be baked in a pit. This takes three to four days to complete. The very young stalk is harvested and eaten raw or cooked like asparagus. As the stalk matures the “nectar” can be harvested for a sweet drink called pulque. This can be done in a survival situation by splitting the stalk lengthwise and removing the inner pulp. Place the inner pulp into a rag or bandana and pulverize the pulp. Squeeze the pulp inside the bandana into a container. This liquid is sweet and tasty and packed with vitamins and minerals but can induce thirst. A sweet syrup can be made by boiling the sap in a container till thickened.

The flowers of the blooming stalk can be eaten after being boiled. Add them to soups and stews as a filler. The seed pod of the Agave is located at the base of the flower and is extremely toxic.

100_2015The photo on the right  is of the Golden-Flowered Agave or Agave hypanthia. This particular Agave will bloom from June till August. There are 12 species of agave in Arizona.

This plant can also serve to make repairs to clothing and equipment. By removing the very sharp point at the tip of the leaf or blade you can make a needle and thread.

The sap of every part of this plant I have found can cause severe dermatitis. This is not case with everyone. I personally am one of those that will break out in a severe itchy burning rash.

The Agave also has several medicinal properties. A tea made from the dried leaf will aid indigestion, gas, and constipation. A tea made from the root can be used as a remedy for arthritis. Do not use this remedy for more than a week. This has been known to cause problems with intestinal absorption.