Recipe: Home Baked Agave
Adapted from American Indian Cooking: Recipes from the Southwest by Carolyn Niethammer (University of Nebraska Press, Bison Books, 1999)
To harvest your own agave, you will need heavy leather gloves, a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, a shovel and a machete. Choose an agave from the species Agave palmerii, A. parryi or A murpheyi that is just beginning to send up an inflorescence. Agaves are protected in the wild, so you will need to find one on private property and get permission from the landowner. Once you pry it out of the ground, turn so the root end is up. Starting at the bottom of the plant cut off the long ends of the leaves about where they begin turning white. The fastest way is to use strong, firm slashes, but be sure to keep the fingers of your other hand out of the way. When you have cut off all the leaves, you should have a white-ish heart. The juice is caustic so covering your skin is important.
When you get the agave heart home, rinse off any dirt and wrap in several layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Place the heart in a shallow baking pan because as the heart cooks, it begins to give off juice which is better in the pan than on the bottom of our oven. Bake at 350 degrees F. for about 10 hours. The cooked heart should be soft and mushy and golden brown. If it isn’t, bake longer.
When cool, extract the fresh pup by starting with the largest, juiciest leaves. Place a leaf on a cutting board and run a dull knife down the leaf in the same direction as the fibers, pressing to force out the pulp. The bottoms of the young center leaves will have the most pulp. A medium-size agave will yield about 3 ½ cups of juice and pulp.