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Related to agave americana: Ageratum conyzoides
A desert emergency food used for production of sugar and syrup. Common landscaping ornamental plant, looks like Aloe, but thicker leaves, (not related to aloe) sometimes more bluish or grey-green, or whitish sharp spikes. When it flowers, a thick vertical stem shoots out of the middle straight up, (sometimes to 40ft!) (12m) with clusters of tubular yellow-green flowers which are edible. They take a long time until they flower, sometimes years. These center stalks are edible when young. Leave a hole where the stalk used to be and it will fill with sap, “agave syrup”, a sweetener. The “heart” is edible- the clump between leaves and root. Leaves can be eaten but aren’t that great NOTE: juice is caustic and can cause skin rash and burn eyes. Best to cook or roast the leaves, then eat, spitting out the fiber. Juice can be boiled to make soap that lathers. Sap is antiseptic, used for diarrhea, dysentery, constipation, diuretic. Root can be boiled and eaten but handle carefully when raw- quite caustic. Roots used to treat syphilis. Unlike other plants, agaves are better the older they get. Seeds, roots, heart can be ground into flour. Water in which agave leaf fiber has been soaked for a day can be used as a scalp disinfectant and tonic for people losing hair. Steroid drug precursors are obtained from the leaves. Edible ones- americana, atrovirens, cantala, chrysantha, complicata, crassipina, deserti, palmeri, paryi, salmiana, scabra, shawii, sisalana, tequilana, utahensis. Non edible- A. lechuguilla.
Edible Plant Guide © 2012 Markus Rothkranz