Agave vera cruz – Famine Foods

Agave vera cruz


India: tuberous hollow stem portion eaten as famine food in Tamil Nadu (Coimbatore, Mathurai, North Arcot districts), Mysore (Kolar, Chitaldrug) (Mysuru). Only the stems from the plants with inflorescence, and where the flowers have opened out are stated to be fit to eat. Processing is achieved according to the following general outline: from the stems which weigh sixty to eighty pounds each, the outer skin is scraped off, washed well, cut into small slices and again washed. The slices are placed in a mud-pot and heated over a burning fire for two hours. The partially cooked material in the pot is allowed to remain over a low fire (without flame) for eight to ten hours when, again, the fire is raised and cooking continued for a further two hours. Thererafter, one-half pound of tamarind and one pound of treacle or jaggery (in solution) are added to the stuff from each stem [sic] and cooking continued for another hour. The pot is removed from the flame and the supernatant water is thrown out. The material is then ready for eating

Additional Information

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Chemical analysis of a typical sample of the fresh material - Moisture: 78.9%. Petroleum ether extract: 0.1%. Crude fiber: 1.5%. Ash: 0.5%. Starch: nil. Carbohydrate (as reducing sugars): 19.0% (mainly polyfructosan). Experimental material gave positive tests for catalases and peroxidases. The prolonged cooking in tamarind water results in a portion of the carbohydrate being hydrolized to sugars by the tartaric acid in the tamarind. A portion of the sugars is still left in the slices, thus rendering them sweet and palatable. N.B. Throwing away the cooking water (hydrolized extract) incurs loss of most of the assimilable carbohydrates. The stem material is also rich in calcium.

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