March 19, 2012
Blue agave (agave azul) is the cash crop of Jalisco, Mexico. The piña and its relatively high production of sugar are processed into tequila. These piñas can weight up to 200 pounds after their 12 years of growth before harvesting.
The production of tequila is highly regulated and calls for blue agave specifically. The process and cultivation has become more homogenized as well. Mescal on the other hand may be made from any number of the 28 species of agave grown in Mexico, and mescal is likened to an artisanal product when produced in small batches–usually for local consumption.
Some agave piñas find use as a starvation crop. To make them palatable, a large fire is allowed to burn itself out before the piñas are placed under coals for days at a time. This process is sometimes a precursor to the piñas used in artisanal mescal.
The increased industrialization of tequila production has coincided with a number of agave diseases ravaging crop populations with little genetic variation.
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