Blue agave succulent plants shape the native landscape, adding color and character to thousands of acres of Jalisco's subtropical region. Blue agave (Agave tequilana var. Weber), a member of the Agavaceae family (cousin to Joshua trees and yucca plants), is a slow-growing plant that spreads runners from a "mother" plant. The runners are then harvested and replanted; some are cultivated for blue agave nectar (or tequila), while others become new mother plants. Grown to USDA Organic Standards, the agave is cultivated and processed without chemicals or genetic modification.
After growing for 5 to 7 years, a mature blue agave plant stands 6 to 8 feet tall and its "sugar" is at its peak. The blue agave's treasure is held in the piña or core of the plant. It is called a piña because it resembles a pineapple after the leaves have been trimmed away. Wax in the blue agave's long leaves gives the species its bluish color.
Farmers hand-cut the blue agave with a simple razor-sharp blade. (A skilled farmer can cut and trim a 100- pound blue agave piña in less than 5 minutes.) The field trimmings are left behind to restore the soil and reduce erosion. The fibrous blue agave piñas are then taken to the mill where it is pressed and its inulin-rich juice is collected and cleaned.
Agave's natural inulin, a dietary fiber made up of complex carbohydrates, is not sweet by nature. Heating (or hydrolyzing) the inulin transforms it into sweet nectar. When making the Light Blue Agave nectar, the juice is heated to 161ºF (72ºC). However, when making the Raw Blue Agave nectar, the process is lower and much slower: the juice is warmed slowly and the low heat is maintained for nearly twice as long. In this simple process, the inulin becomes fructose, a slowly metabolizing simple sugar found in many fruits and vegetables.
When agave piñas are crushed, the collected liquid oxidizes (much in the same way an apple turns brown when exposed to air). Filtering determines the blue agave nectar's flavor and color. According to Wholesome Sweeteners' preferences, the Light Blue Agave is simply more filtered than its Raw-Amber counterpart. Light Blue Agave enhances food's natural flavors while Raw Blue Agave imparts a rich, subtly complex sweetness. Whether Light or Raw, the end result is the same: a sweet, low glycemic organic nectar that's perfect for baking, beverages, fresh fruit and table top use.
The simple organic process at the mill:
Milling and juicing: the Blue Agave piñas are crushed and milled; all of the raw juices are collected in tanks and the rest of the piñas' fibers are recycled.
Filtering: The blue agave juices are filtered through carbon-activated filters.
Hydrolysis: In this stage, the inulin in the agave juice is gently heated to convert it into sweet agave syrup.
2nd Filtering: For food safety, the agave nectar is filtered a second time.
Evaporation: The organic blue agave juices are thickened slowly by evaporation at a tepid temperature.