Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Agave Nectar or Miel de Maguey

When we were in Mexico in February, we picked up this jar of Miel de Maguey, which is agave nectar. We really wish we had bought more, as it is superb! It is so delicious, with a much deeper and more fruity agave flavor than any we have bought in the US, and I have tried every one I have seen. This jar we are savoring and are using it on dishes where we will be able to taste and appreciate the special flavor.

It was interesting to note while we were there that many Mexicans use agave nectar as a medicinal supplement rather than as a sweetener. When we were talking about how popular agave nectar is here in the States as sugar substitute, it was interesting to find out that in some parts of Mexico it is more commonly just eaten by the spoonful like a dose of medicine. So, I had to explain how to use it as a sweetener. That was a little surprising to me, since besides honey, agave is a sweetener native to Mexico. The nectar from the agave plant has been extracted and used for food since pre-Columbian times. Sugar cane was brought to Mexico in more recent history. Perhaps it was because I was talking to people in Yucatan, and agave is not a crop grown there. In Yucatan, bee honey is a big industry and has always been used there as a sweetener.

For those who are curious, here is a translation of the health claims written on this jar of agave nectar: "rich in fiber, dietetic oligosaccharide, aids digestion and promotes the development of intestinal flora. Natural source of protein, calcium, potassium, vitamin C and antioxidants. More than a sweetener." Now in contrast, here are the health claims written on a some of the bottles of agave nectar that I have found in the US which are marketed to Americans: "a new natural sweetener... low glycemic index that is beneficial for many... diabetic friendly..."

I personally ignore health claims written on food products. I don't trust them. And there is good reason to be skeptical. Agave nectar sold in the US is not without controversy, as apparently some brands that say they're 100 percent pure, really aren't, the glycemic index differs greatly between brands, etc.

I use agave nectar because I like how it tastes, how it dissolves so easily into liquids and because it works well in many of my recipes. I use it sparingly when I do use it.

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