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Agave Studies in Yucatan, Mexico. II. Nutritional Value of the Inflorescence Peduncle and Incipient Domestication

Patricia Colunga-GarcíaMarín, Julian Coello-Coello, Lida Espejo-Peniche and Lilia Fuente-Moreno
Economic Botany
Vol. 47, No. 3 (Jul. - Sep., 1993), pp. 328-334
Published by: Springer on behalf of New York Botanical Garden Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4255529
Page Count: 7
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Agave Studies in Yucatan, Mexico. II. Nutritional Value of the Inflorescence Peduncle and Incipient Domestication
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Abstract

Recent ethnobotanical exploration of henequén (Agave fourcroydes) in the Peninsula of Yucatan, Mexico, finds that inflorescence peduncles are used as emergency food and in the preparation of a fermented drink. Bromatological analysis and determination of total carbohydrates were made for the two length classes (ca. 3.30 m and ca. 0.60 m) which are consumed. The analysis of both the cultivated plant and its putative wild ancestor (Agave angustifolia) suggests that utilization of the inflorescence peduncles as food may have been involved in the initial stages of the history of its evolution under artificial selection, because the wild and the cultivated plants have similar palatability. The subsequent agricultural prevalence of annual crop species in the region was possibly responsible for the abandonment of henequén in the local diet. No significant differences are observed between the bromatological and total carbohydrate values of domesticated and wild plants. The preference for small inflorescence peduncles as a vegetable is a consequence of its significantly minor content of raw fiber and its larger content of total carbohydrates. As a fermented drink, longer peduncles are preferred because they provide more substrate material and because fiber can be eliminated by filtering. This agricultural by-product, almost totally wasted, has potential value as a source of carbohydrates and raw fiber. /// La exploracion etnobotanica reciente de henequén (Agave fourcroydes) en Yucatan, Mexico, indico el uso del pedunculo floral como alimento humano de emergencia y para elaborar una bebida fermentada. El analisis bromatológico y de carbohidratos totales en las dos longitudes que es consumido (alrededor de 3.30 m y 0.60 m), tanto del cultivado como del presunto ancestro silvestre (Agave angustifolia), indicaron que su uso alimenticio pudo estar involucrado en las fases historicas iniciales de su evolucion bajo seleccion artificial, ya que el silvestre presenta caracteristicas agradables al gusto semejantes a las del cultivado. La posterior prevalencia de especies anuales en la agricultura de la region, posiblemente dejo atras la importancia de henequén en la dieta del area, por lo que no se detectan diferencias significativas entre el domesticado y el silvestre en relacion a su valor bromatologico y azucares totales. La preferencia actual del pedunculo pequeno como verdura de debe a su significativo menor contenido de fibra cruda y mayor contenido de carbohidratos totales. Como bedida fermentada, se prefiere la talla grande, pues asi se dispone de mas material y, como es colada, la fibra no se consume. Este esquilmo agricola, casi totalmente desaprovechado, tiene valor potencial como fuente de carbohidratos y fibra cruda.

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