Maguey, Agave Americana, Century Plant, American Aloe
Maguey or Agave americana is a native plant from Mexico, and it is now cultivated in many parts of the world. This plant, also known as the century plant or American aloe, is neither an aloe nor a cactus, as it is sometimes erroneously believed, but instead is a member of the Agavaceae family. Maguey is one of the many species of agave plants that exist in the Americas. They grow in semi-arid environments from the sea level to an altitude of about 9,000 feet.
In ancient Mesoamerica, maguey was first collected and then cultivated and used for a variety of purposes. From its leaves people obtained fibers to make ropes, textiles, as well as construction materials, and fuel. Its thorns were an important tool used as perforators in bloodletting rituals. However, the most important product obtained from maguey was a mildly alcoholic beverage called pulque, obtained by the fermentation of aguamiel, ("honey water" in Spanish), the sweet, milky juice extracted from the plant. Pulque was a forerunner of Mezcal.
Archaeologists are still debating if Mezcal (Mescal English) was known in pre-Hispanic times or if it was an innovation of the Colonial period. Distillation was a well-known process in Europe, derived from Arabic traditions, whereas the evidence from pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica and the accounts from the early Contact period about this process are not straightforward.
However, recent investigations in the site of Nativitas, Tlaxcala, Central Mexico, are providing an interesting set of evidence about the possibility of mezcal production in pre-Hispanic times.
Maguey may refer to various American plants:
Genus Agave, mescal; especially
Species Agave americana, century plant