What is agave syrup and what are its properties?
Agave syrup, also called honey, is a natural sweetener whose extraction takes place from the sap of the homonymous plant: it is exactly the blue agave that grows in Mexico. It is mainly used in cooking as it has a 25% higher sweetening power than that of refined white sugar, commonly used but, given the most recent studies on the subject, particularly harmful. Despite being so sweet, however, it has a very low glycemic index, which makes it particularly suitable for those suffering from diabetes or high blood sugar, a rather widespread problem in the rich Western world, precisely because the incidence of glucose is minor: for this it is widely used in herbal medicine where it is easy to find it. Agave syrup can boast such a high sweetening power precisely because the sap of the plant is full of fructose. The main carbohydrate that makes up agave juice is inulin, a polysaccharide used precisely for the extraction of fructose. These aspects make it a valuable ally of healthy nutrition and therefore of any weight loss or maintenance diets.
Other uses of agave
But in addition to this main use, agave has a wide use in herbal medicine: in fact, in addition to the syrup, it is used in powder, herbal teas and tinctures are drawn from it: in fact it has digestive, tonic, purgative and diuretic properties and can be both external and internal; it also has purifying properties for the liver and curative for otorrhea (inflammation of the ears), for blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids) and for skin sores and ulcers for which you can make compresses based on dissolved powdered agave in water. Last but not least, the plant is also used for the production of the famous tequila.
How agave syrup is made
The production of the syrup from the plant.
As previously stated, agave syrup is extracted from the sap of the succulent plant. The plant must grow at least 10 years before it can be cut for processing. But what are the processes that affect this production? First you need the fruit of the plant, called the agave "pine cone". It is then divided into smaller parts which are then placed on trays to be put in the oven, at about 50 ° -70 ° and are cooked for a long time, between 40 and 72 hours: these are particular ovens, which allow cooking very slowly without the plant drying out or burning. After three hours of cooking, the bitter nectar is drained and gradually collected, then the pieces of the fruit are put back in the oven. When cooked, the agave pieces are removed from the oven and placed on a bowl to cool while the residual nectar is collected; once cooled, the portions of the fruit are then passed under water after which they are crushed to extract the pulp and juice, until it no longer comes out: the juice extracted in this phase is combined with the nectar produced by the fruit during cooking ; afterwards the pieces are blended or continued to crush until more juice comes out; once the puree is obtained, it is placed in a narrow mesh colander to collect the last drops of juice. Once all the juice has been collected, it is then bottled: a paper filter is usually inserted into the bottles to lighten the nectar. Then the nectar is heated to create a thermal hydrolysis that transforms the carbohydrates into sugars and is then concentrated in the form of syrup, with a slightly more fluid consistency than honey.
Where can you buy it and how much it costs
On the market it is not easy to find agave syrup, however the large number of shops specialized in organic products today allows you to buy it without too many problems. Furthermore, it is available in herbalist shops or in some supermarket chains, especially in large cities, where it is easier to find particular products in large-scale distribution. The price is not the most convenient: it is in fact around 10-12 euros per liter: however, if you consider that this syrup has a much higher sweetening power than refined sugar, you will easily realize that its use will be rather reduced compared to the latter. And if you then come to terms with your health, and compare the cost of this natural product with that of other sweeteners perhaps made of harmful substances (just think of how harmful aspartame is, which for years has been the protagonist of many diets), you will see that, in the end, the price is not so exaggerated.