The genus Agave is treated here in a wide sense to include taxa previously treated as belonging to the genera Manfreda, Prochnyanthes, Polianthes and Pseudobravoa. Not all botanists are happy with this treatment, with some feeling that these genera should remain distinct, at least until further studies have been carried out. In addition, given the high species diversity found in Agave, some feel that an alternative approach could be the recognition of several smaller genera within the current circumscription of Agave[
Common Name: Jaiboli
Agave jaiboli is an evergreen, stemless, succulent plant forming an open rosette of leaves that can be 60 - 100cm tall and 140 - 200cm in diameter. The leaves on mature plants can each be 60 - 100cm long and 8 - 12cm wide near the middle. After several years of growth, a flowering stem that can be around 6 - 8 metres tall is produced, after which the rosette will die[
The plant is highly esteemed locally as a food source and is often harvested from the wild for use as a food and to make the drink 'mezcal'. The food qualities of this species appear to merit detailed investigation as a potential resource[
Agave jaiboli has a relatively small range and extent of occurrence. It occurs in 6 to 10 locations where it experiences a continuing decline in number of mature individuals as a consequence of over-exploitation for mescal production and decline in the quality of its habitat due to ranching. The plant is classified as 'Vulnerable' in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(2020)[
Many Agave species have strong, sharp spines on the leaves and leaf tips.
In theory at least, the flowers, nectar, immature flowering stem and the centre of the rosette of all Agave species is edible and, with proper preparation, can provide a sweet, tasty foodstuff. Some species, however, contain relatively high levels of saponins (which makes them taste bitter) and some other compounds which can cause bellyache, and so these would only be eaten in times of desperation. In addition, many people may find these foods to be strongly laxative the first few times they eat them[
Southern N. America - northern Mexico (Sonora, Chihuahua)
Found between the upper slopes of the short-tree forest and the open grassy slopes of oak woodland, growing on rocky soils; at elevations from 300 - 1,400 metres[
Agave jaiboli is a plant of the semi-arid, warm temperate zone of northern Mexico, growing on mountain slopes in a nearly frost-free region with around 500mm rainfall each year[
]. Cultivated plants, growing in a semi-arid, temperate environment, have been known to survive 8°c of frost[
Agave species generally require a sunny position, succeeding in most soils of medium-fertility so long as they are very well-drained. Most species are undemanding as to the soil pH, though those found in the wild on limestone soils will grow better in neutral to alkaline conditions. Plants are generally very tolerant of dry conditions and of drought[
Agave species are monocarpic, individual plants living for a number of years without flowering then sending up an often very large flowering stem and then dying after flowering and setting seed[
This species does not reproduce via suckers, only by seeds[
Individual plants take about 7 - 15 years in their native habitat, considerably longer in colder climates, before flowering[
Rabbits and gophers are fond of the plants and can completely destroy them[
Young flowering shoots - cooked[1842. Usually boiled, it has a sweet flavour[
The heart of the rosette - cooked[
]. A sweet flavour when baked[
]. Traditionally, the rosette was harvested before the plant developed a flowering stem but as it was nearing maturity. The leaves were removed, but the leaf bases were left attached. The heart and leaf bases were then slow-baked in an earth oven for 1 - 2 days, which converts the carbohydrates into sugars, and the heart develops a very sweet flavour. The heart can then be cut into slices and eaten as is; it can be dried for later use; or it can be juiced and made into a syrup which could then be either fermented or distilled if desired.
The baked leaf bases have a sweet flavour but are very fibrous. They would be chewed to extract the sweetness and the remaining fibrous mass spat out.
A word of warning, however. People new to this food are likely to find that it has a strongly laxative effect the first time or two that they eat it.
The plant is often used to make mescal[
]. Mezcal is a distilled alcoholic beverage that potentially can be made from almost any species of Agave, though only around fifty are used regularly and seven species are especially favoured. Mature plants are harvested from the wild, their leaves and roots are removed and the remaining 'hearts' are baked (often in an earth oven), then mashed and the resulting liquid allowed to ferment for a few days before being distilled to produce mezcal.
This plant is esteemed by the Warihio Indians for its sweet flavour[
Seed - surface sow in a light position, mid spring in a warm greenhouse. The seed usually germinates in 1 - 3 months at 15 - 20°c[
]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots of well-drained soil when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in a sunny position in the greenhouse until they are at least 15cm tall. Plant out at the beginning of the growing season, and give some protection from the cold for at least their first few winters[
Offsets and suckers can be potted up at any time they are available. Keep in a warm greenhouse until they are well established[
Bulbils, where produced, are an easy method of propagation. Simply pot them up and plant out at the beginning of a growing season when they are 10cm or more tall.