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The Tree of Marvels: Agave in the Kitchen

El árbol de las meravillas, the tree of marvels: this is how the Jesuit priest Josè de Acosta named the agave tree in 1550. There must have been some truth in it too, if two centuries later the botanist Carlo Linneo decided to give the plant its Greek name, àgauòs, meaning “illustrious” or “noble”. These complimentary epithets would seem deserved: if you’re asking why, you should bear in mind that this plant was spread throughout its current range by humans (from present day Mexico to Ecuador, parts of the Andes and the Caribbean islands) and played a central role in Mesoamerican culture for thousands of years, lending itself to an incredible variety of uses. From the fibers in the leaves used to make ropes, nets, baskets, clothes, blankets, carpets, bags and many other common objects, the spines as hooks, the stems as fishing rods or poles, and the juice used to make medicine or poison – (for dipping arrows in!) – depending on the specific plant variety.

And yet, if you could go back and ask people of that time what the agave’s most important use was, they’d probably tell you that it was as food – as it still is today. In reality it’s lots of different foods, as you’ll be able to discover at Cooking with Agave at Eataly Lingotto on September 25th.

In the course of the centuries humankind has learned to extract all the goodness that each part of the agave plant offers: Mexican chefs from the Terra Madre network, experts on the 200 known


varieties, will share with us their ancient tradition knowledge, taking you step by step through various modes of preparation, as well as tasting. They’ll tell us more about how this remarkable plant has become an essential part of their culture, explaining how for the populations of Central and South America has always been much more than a “simple” ingredient in some of the local products we all know, like Tequila and Mezcal!

You’ll taste a soup made from pulque, one of the most typical drinks in Mexican cuisines, to make it the central leaves of the plant must be cut before flowering, then gather the juice released by the plant daily for the following two months, leaving it to ferment without distillation. The result is a clear liquid with an almost viscous consistency, slightly more alcoholic than your average beer. You’ll also be able to taste a recipe made from rabbit, wherein the meat is wrapped in agave leaves during a very slow cooking process over hot coals, a flan made with agave honey, a natural sweetener obtained from the plant’s sap and considered by many a great alternative to sugar due to its high fructose content and low glycemic index.

So what are you waiting for? Book your place now! And in the meantime, whet your appetite reading about the six agave products already aboard the Ark of Taste!

Paolo Tosco

An Event by
 Città di Torino
 Slow Food
 Regione Piemonte
In collaboration with
With the contribution of
Official Partners
Supporters of the Terra Madre Foundation and Slow Food
With the support of

Terra Madre Salone del Gusto
Slow Food Promozione P.Iva 02220020040
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