Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Foxtail Agave

The foxtail agave, or agave attenuata, is a truly incredible plant.  If you have followed this blog or eaten at Sierra Mar, you know that I am a fan of edible herbs and blossoms, but this is unlike anything I have ever seen.  The agave plant itself is giant, a perfect spiral of pointed leaves with a spike resembling an aqua green rhino horn protruding from the center.  These plants are an incredible addition to any garden, but as soon as they send up their flowering stalk, they die.  Most agave flowers are beautiful and exotic, but the foxtail tops them all, in fact, a more apt name might have been the elephant trunk agave, because that is what the stalk resembles both in shape and sheer size.  

Adding to its mystery, the stalk begins as thousands of tiny buds which slowly open from the base to the tip.  This process can take months and only a few lines of buds will be open at any given time, leaving rows of dead buds behind and unopened buds in front.  The only plant I have seen that is similar is the monstera fruit, which is reminiscent in shape and ripens in spirals one row at a time. 

Many parts of the plant are edible, from the roasted heart to the sweet sap, unfortunately they are rarely available for experimentation.  Luckily I was able to trade some contraband goose liver to our sommelier for a few previous blossoms from his garden. 

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