Agave Nectar - A New Kitchen Favorite
Agave nectar is an all natural sweetener made from the juice of the agave, a type of succulent native to Mexico and other hot, arid regions like the American Southwest and some areas of South America.
There are over 200 species of agave growing wild across Mexico and the plant has long been revered in Mexican culture because of it's unusual ability to produce liquid in desert conditions.
The production of agave nectar for use as a sweetener has begun only recently as the industry has always focused primarily on the production of tequila and other assorted spirits and liqueurs.
Agave nectar has a pure, sweet flavor and has almost 1-1/2 times the sweetening power of refined sugar. It is high in fructose, has about half the amount of carbohydrate calories as sugar and doesn't stimulate insulin production in the body the same way sugar does. It may even be an acceptable sugar substitute for some people suffering from diabetes as it has a glycemic index of only 32.
The nectar is generally available in two grades, amber and light. The light has a very neutral sweetness and will not change the flavor of the dishes it's used in. The amber has more of it's own distinct flavor, somewhat reminiscent of maple syrup.
In cooking, we've found agave nectar extremely easy to work with and have been using the light variety in place of sugar in many recipes. It's not nearly as thick as honey, so it blends with other liquids almost instantly, a real convenience when you're whipping up a salad dressing or want to add a touch of sweetness to a sauce.