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What is Agave?

24 July, 2020

At Penka, we feel proud to work with agave. It is necessary to clarify that when we say "Agave" we refer to a genus of plants native to the American continent, generally succulents, that today are distributed all around the world. There are approximately 220 species in this genus, and Mexico is the center of origin of 75%+ of them.

Agaves are plants which adapt to low rainfall zones, and prolonged droughts. They can also develop in semi-desert regions, Their species spread from the coast to the high mountains.

Agave Plant

Agaves are made up of a central storage stalk, coloquially known as “piña” (as it resembles a pineapple), leaves that surround it called pencas - hence the name we chose-, and underground stems from which they take nutrients. At the end of its productive life they grow a quiote, a giant asparagus-shaped sprout with flowers and fruits.

In pre-Hispanic times, agaves were used for food, clothing and housing., Our ancestors used the entire plant: the fiber of the leaves, for ropes and fabrics, quiotes and dry leaves as construction materials. Fermented sugars gave rise to pulque, a low alcoholic beverage.

After the conquest, agaves were cultivated in different regions of Mexico and their production was specialized according to use. For example, in Yucatan henequen was cultivated for manufacturing ropes, whereas in Hidalgo and the center of the Mexico the use of agaves focused on the production of pulque and alembic-distilled mezcal out of local species.

In the Tequila region, particularly in Jalisco, a variety of agave was found, which has high sugar content, a short life cycle and high production of agave rhizome plantlets or pups for its propagation. These characteristics, together with the ease for grinding the cooked fibers, and extracting its sugars, made it an excellent option for the production of distillates. This variety can be identified by the bluish color of its leaves or stalks, and it is known as blue agave. Its botanical name is Agave tequilana Weber, blue variety.

For years, the waste from the tequila industry (what remains from the main stem after the processing and extraction of sugars) had not been of much use, other than as livestock feed and land fertilizer. In the search for different applications for the agave bagasse and the leveraging of its biomass, its uses have diversified, examples of which are the manufacture of building blocks, paper, handcrafts, and what becomes our passion - biomaterials.

At Penka we give life to the agave bagasse cellulose fibers, by producing biomaterials with countless applications as a sustainable alternative to plastic materials from petroleum. Among those applications you will find our line of straws, stirrers, and other products that we invite you to know at www.penka.mx

By: Jose Ignacio Del Real / Eduardo Rivera

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