Thumbs up for The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart. Botany.
The kind of book you read in one evening, while mentally making a list of passages to read aloud to your roommate and/or coworkers the next day. Interested at all in history, botany, or what goes into your tipple? You will love this book. Never again will I cringe at the cost of a bottle of liquor: I have a new perspective of the deep unlikelihood of some of these things being available at all.
To make pulque, the flowering stalk of the agave is cut just as it starts to form. The plant waits its entire life for this moment, stockpiling sugars for a decade or more in anticipation of the emergence of this single appendage. Cutting it forces the base to swell without growing taller; at that point, the wound is covered and allowed to rest for several months while the sap builds. Then it is punctured again, causing the heart to rot. This rotten interior is scooped out and the inside of the cavity is repeatedly scraped, which irritates the plant so much that sap begins to flow profusely. Once it begins flowing, the sap is extracted every day by means of a rubber tube or, in the old days, a pipette made from a gourd called acocote. (The acocote, in case you are inclined to grow your own, is often made from the long, skinny segment of Lagenaria vulgaris, a common bottle gourd also used to make bowls and musical instruments.)
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