Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Maguey Sweet Sap: A Natural Sweetener to Try

I go to the National Restaurant Association’s show every May in Chicago. I go because I want to keep up on what’s happening in the food world. I go because I want to discover something new.

And this year I did make a discovery: Maguey Sweet Sap.

First off, I want to make it clear that it isn’t pronounced like it seems. Maguey.  (If you didn’t already click on the word, so, and then you’ll have the correct pronunciation.)

It’s a natural sweetener. Comes from Mexico. From a cactus plant. "Oh yeah," you say. "I know that. Agave syrup.  I use that."

But it’s not agave syrup. A small taste makes that abundantly clear. It has a unique and robust flavor profile. It has a slight taste of molasses and agave combined, but also a distinct flovor all its own. The Maguey Sweet Sap lingers with a subtle flavor.
So I was pulled into the booth at the NRA. I wanted to find out more.

Chef Ashley Simone with Mayra Ortiz, one of the owners of the company.

And what the couple in that booth wanted me to know for sure is that the Maguey Sweet Sap they were hawking was most definitely not agave.

To be honest, you can call it a cousin. 

Actually, the maguey plant is similar to some other common plants. To the aloe plant even. To the century cactus plant.  All in the same family.

In the United States, we’ve grown used to the benefits from this family of succulents which gives us agave syrup and tequila.

Maguey Sweet Sap is gathered from the maguey plant only after it has matured (some 12 years) and is about to flower. The central part of the plant is removed and hollowed out and then sap can be collected several times a day, for as long as four months.

This venture, by the company Villa de Patos, is organic. The operation is sustainable and it provides a living for a number of families in some small villages in the north of Mexico.  Another plus is that this natural sweetener is higher in sucrose than, say, honey, agave syrup and, of course, high fructose corn syrup.

I’m going to be experimenting with this sweetener.  I have tried it in my coffee. Soon I’ll share a recipe or two with you and let you know how I like to use this sweetener. Maybe I'll create a fun new cocktail.  Stay tuned!

Have you ever tried Maguey Sweet Sap before?  This product may not be in all the grocery stores right now but you can purchase it online from The Republic of Tea.

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