Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Cinco de Mayo . . .

. . . and Century Plants

Today, the fifth of May, is an important day to the residents of my community, the Mexican population, which incidently composes about 51 per cent of the local population.

The celebrations of Cinco de Mayo were held on the past weekend with picnics in the City Park, folklorico dancing for hours and thousands of people dancing to Spanish bands and marachi groups.

Mentioning the fiesta occasion brings to mind the Mexican foliage growing in our yard here in Hobbs. Although it has now died (and the picture, too, that was supposed to inset itself into this blog), this corner area was a great attraction for months.

In fact, the City Commission beautification committee that year chose our place as "Home of the Month" (I forget which month).

The attraction was our Century Plant. It grew from our xeriscape (no-grass landscaping) at the rate of about five inches a day, and eventually began sprouting five-inch wide blooms of red, yellow, orange and various combinations of those colors.

The plant reached approximately 30 feet high, towering over our house and our red van parked in the driveway. By the time it reached that height the plant exhibited dozens of wide blooms.

Those many blooms may have signaled the demise of our century plant, which after months of soaring high over Houston Street, began to sag southerly and over our parked red van (which you should have seen here).
It took a few weeks in its alternate sagging and trying to straighten up, much to the amusement of passing students and teachers of the Houston Junior High School a few blocks south of us.

We backed the van out one morning to go shopping and returned to find the century plant laying across the driveway and an adjacent alleyway. It took a couple hours with a chainsaw to clear the area.

Although research seems to indicate that the roots of the plant should have produced another sky-reacher, it didn't happen, and the sword plant from which it had emerged also died.

The research I did on the plant says it is Agave Americana, also called
Maguey. While a Mexican plant, it also grows and excels in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa ad Europe.

I learned that after flowering, the Century Plant does die but leaves roots which continue yearly growth for about 28 years. Hey, something went wrong here on Houston Street - that did not happen.

So how does this fit into the month's theme - SWEET? Cut into the flower stem before the plant flowers. This will produce a SWEET liquid called agua miel, meaning honey water. (honey - again SWEET). You then ferment this liquid to produce a drink called "pulque."

Leaves of the plant yield fibers, known as pita, suitable for making rope, coarse cloth or matting. And then there's agave syrup, also called agave nectar, now marketed as a healthful, natural SWEET sugar sustitute.

Lastly, the giant plant also carries the American name aloe, and that four-letter word shows up in a lot of medicinal salves.

My backyard neighbor told me the roots of the century plant produce a liquid which when harvested and properly boiled, results in that ever popular Mexican brew, tequila.

That neighbor planned to make some tequila for me but just never got around to it. That's OK, David, I don't drink anything more potent than milk anyway.

- 30-

1 comment:

  1. Could it be that there are indeed roots still gathering strength that will produce a new plant in the future?