Raw Organic Agave Nectar
I looked around for just the right sweetener for Chicaoji. I chose agave nectar for a couple of reasons.
- I like its complex flavor.
- Customers find agave nectar’s relatively low low glycemic index valuable and desirable.
- I like that the agave is organically produced by an indigenous cooperative in Mexico.
I purchase Chicaoji’s agave nectar from Madhava Natural Sweenteners . Much of the following text is from their website and describes the reasons I use raw organic agave nectar to make Chicaoji. (I edited for clarity and relevance.)
Madhava’s Agave Nectar is made from the extract of the wild agave plant. Find it at many food coops and natural food stores.
How is agave nectar made?
Interestingly, the production of agave nectar is very similar to how a bee creates honey. The bee adds enzymes to the complex sugars of nectar, which changes it into the simple sugars making honey. It is also through enzymatic action that the complex sugar found in agave juice is changed into a simple sugar sweetener- Agave Nectar.
The raw agave juice is regularly harvested from living plants by Indian peoples native to central Mexico. To do so, they must slice off the top of the plant and hollow out its core. Then the plant is capped with a stone. The pineapple shaped agave plant secretes its nectar into the center of the plant, rather than into flowers like most plants do. It collects in the hollow center for several days, after which the milky white “juice” is removed by ladle, one plant at a time. In a way it is similar to tapping a tree for maple syrup collection.
Agave nectar is a newly created sweetener, having been developed during the 1990′s. Originally, the blue agave variety was used. This is the same plant used in the manufacture of tequila. During the late 90′s, a shortage of blue agave resulted in huge increases in cost and a sweetener based on this plant became uneconomical. Further research was done and a method using wild agave was developed. Overcoming the language barrier between the Indians able to supply the nectar from the wild agave on their land and the Spanish speaking local manufacturer was the key that finally unlocked a supply of raw material and has led to our bringing this wonderful new product to market.
Why eat agave nectar?
Agave Nectar has many fine qualities. Foremost among them are the certified purity, both organic and kosher. Also of note is the flavor. The light variety’s neutral flavor will not alter the taste of the foods in which it is used making it ideal as a sweetener for coffee, tea, fruit “smoothies”, and other beverages. The amber variety’s mild natural flavor will lend a delicious and mysterious hint of flavor to sauces or baked goods. This sweetener is also very convenient to use, as it has a long, stable shelf life and will not solidify. It pours quickly even when cold, blends and dissolves readily in or on all foods. For baking, its moisture retention properties are comparable to those of honey. Bakers also may notice a silky, smoother texture to their goods and better definition of other natural flavors.
Limiting glucose consumption is a contemporary concern for many people. The introduction of this new sweetener is timely as it has a relatively low glycemic index due to its higher proportion of fructose and lower levels of glucose. This fact should prove attractive to those with special diet considerations or who monitor glucose intake.
This pure, unrefined sweetener is a great-tasting, economical alternative to all other sweeteners, granular or liquid, perfect for all around use. It has approx 1.4 x the sweetening power of white sugar. Agave Nectar’s mild flavor doesn’t vary widely which will lend a real consistency to recipes.
Madhava’s Agave Nectar’s characteristics
- High in fructose
It enjoys all the benefits which continue to make fructose a preferred sweetening agent. It is sweeter than refined white sugar (approximately 1.4 times sweeter); in fact, fructose offers an equivalent sweetness for nearly half the amount of carbohydrate calories. Fructose does not stimulate digestive insulin secretion as do other sugars. It is less disturbing to the glycemic index. In common parlance, it does not create a “sugar rush.”
- Certified organic.
The manufacturers have obtained organic certification from BCS Oeko Garantie Gmbh, a German firm accredited by the USDA. The Agave crops used in producing Agave Nectar are herbicide and pesticide free. Growers that supply the raw material will use only natural fertilizers and employ agricultural practices that meet organic certification standards. The manufacturers will also obtain organic certification on their manufacturing process.
- Certified Kosher:
The manufacturers have obtained KOSHER PAREVE certification: Special Kosher – Lepesach production certification for their plant.
- Low Glycemic Index:
This is a relatively new concept which can be important from a metabolic standpoint, especially to diabetics, along with athletes and grossly overweight individuals. The index is an indicator as to how much your blood sugar increases in 2-3 hours after specific food consumption. Most if not all carbohydrates are normally metabolized into the simple carbohydrate glucose, which in the glycemic index concept is arbitrarily assigned a value of 100.As a result, the higher a glycemic index food number is, the faster it raises your blood sugar level. Foods or ingredients with glycemic index numbers close to or above 100 present some significant health issues to diabetics, and in general, sweeteners of all kinds should be avoided by diabetics. Nonetheless, for those diabetics who choose to consume certain amounts of carbohydrates, Agave Nectar, it should be noted has a lower glycemic index than honey. Agave Nectar was found to have a glycemic index of 32. In contrast, honey has a reported glycemic index of 58, due to its higher ratio of glucose to fructose, as compared to the ratio of glucose to fructose in Agave Nectar.Please note: these values are based on using glucose as the reference point, which is the currently accepted approach relative to reporting glycemic index. Earlier, white bread was the reference point, but white bread composition can vary widely, and thus glucose is now the preferred base product.
Click here to visit the Madhava site for more detailed information.
Detailed chart of agave’s nutrient values from the USDA.
Interesting blog on Luna and Larry’s Coconut Bliss website about the production of agave nectar in Jalisco, Mexico.
The agave nectar controversy discussed by the folks at Gnosis Chocolates.