Published Friday, November 20, 2020
By Victoria Torley
If there ever was a reason to grow succulents, tequila has to be up there in the top ten.
Okay, true, there is no ‘tequila’ plant; the plant is the blue agave and it is a super succulent, easy to grow, tolerant of errors, and reproduces readily. Plus the ‘tequila’ part (just don’t mention it out loud). The problem? You need to have time on your hands.
The blue agave is slow to mature – about twelve years of “slow” – and can be harvested only once. Very sad, and probably the reason that some agave farms are family affairs. One family farm has been making tequila for one hundred and ninety years. Talk about long-term commitment.
The blue agave can get quite large and tequila is made from the heart of the agave. Fortunately, that ‘heart,’ called a pina, can weigh up to two hundred pounds. The agave also sprouts ‘pups’ from the base of the plant although seeds are available.
Question: Can you grow agave in Costa Rica? Answer: Yes, but very carefully!
Let me explain. Agave is a desert plant which means it grows best in somewhat sandy, arid, alkaline soils and we don’t have much of that in Costa Rica. Agave also prefers altitudes of 1500 feet (457 meters), so finding the ideal location in Costa Rica is a challenge.
But let’s say that you have time on your hands, and can provide the kind of environment preferred by agave, what then? Then order your seeds, plant them in a cactus soil mix and wait. When your seeds sprout, you start the real wait during which you harvest pups and replant them. At the end of all that work, what do you do?
First you are really, really cautious when you harvest the pina because there are ingredients in a pina that can cause a very nasty rash. Chop off all the leaves and even into the ground until you are left with a ball – the pina. Split it in half – after all it is quite heavy – and cook it. Yes, you are going to need a very large vessel in which to cook the pina or you can chop it up and use a lot of pots.
All cooked? Now you have to put the pinas through a press to extract syrup. Then the secret process occurs. Syrup and pure spring water, plus some yeast for fermentation and some ageing (add that to the first twelve years) and – if you are lucky – you will have the perfect marguerite!
Easy right? Better get started soon.
Plant for the Week
Here’s a lovely succulent growing happily in Escazú at Hotel Posada de Quijote. They have great gardens there, including this sabila aloe vera. Mine never flowered so I didn’t recognize it at first. So, besides being medicinal, it’s also an attractive flower in the garden.
Editor's note: More information on this article or about gardening, Ms. Victoria Torley, gardener columnist, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org