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Agave nectar facts for kids

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Agave tequilana 2
Blue agave (Agave tequilana)

Agave syrup, commonly though inaccurately known as agave nectar, is a sweetener commercially produced from several species of agave, including Agave tequilana (blue agave) and Agave salmiana. Blue-agave syrup contains 56% fructose as a sugar providing sweetening properties.

Most agave syrup comes from Mexico and South Africa.

Production

Agave Syrup
Agave Syrup

To produce agave syrup from the Agave americana and A. tequilana plants, the leaves are cut off the plant after it has been growing for seven to fourteen years. The juice is then extracted from the core of the agave, called the piƱa. The juice is filtered, then heated to break the complex components into simple sugars. This filtered juice is then concentrated to a syrupy liquid, slightly thinner than honey. Its color varies from light- to dark-amber, depending on the degree of processing.

Agave salmiana is processed differently from Agave tequiliana. As the plant develops, it starts to grow a stalk called a quiote. The stalk is cut off before it fully grows, creating a hole in the center of the plant that fills with a liquid called aguamiel. The liquid is collected daily. The liquid is then heated, breaking down its complex components into fructose, glucose, and sucrose.

Agave syrup (nectar) is not listed on the inventory of foods generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Culinary use

Hearts of tequila agaves
Hearts of tequila or blue agaves before being heated to remove the sap

Blue-agave syrup is 1.4 to 1.6 times sweeter than sugar, and may be substituted for sugar or honey in recipes. It is added to some breakfast cereals as a binding agent.

Agave syrups are sold in light, amber, dark, and raw varieties. Light agave syrup has a mild, almost neutral flavor, and is therefore sometimes used in delicate-tasting dishes and beverages. Amber agave syrup has a medium-intensity caramel flavor and is therefore used in dishes and drinks with stronger flavors. Dark agave syrup has a stronger caramel taste and gives a distinct flavor to dishes, such as some desserts, poultry, meat, and seafood dishes.

Both amber and dark agave syrups are sometimes used "straight out of the bottle" as a topping for pancakes, waffles, and French toast. The dark version is unfiltered and therefore contains a higher concentration of the agave plant's minerals.

Blue-agave syrup is not recommended for people with fructose intolerance.

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