Recently a yard project required we cut a few of the leaves off our agave. Before disposing of them, I decided to dissect. Beneath the green skin is a fleshy moist interior threaded with cream colored strands. These fibers are strong as heck and could easily double as dental floss.
Feeling my inner ancient ancestor, I scraped away the pulp, pulling free the long strands. In a bucket of water the pulp fermented and dissolved away from the strands over a couple of days. Eventually I was able to comb out a long hank of fibers. Rubbing them with beeswax ensured pliability. Although they are beautiful, like a horse’s tail, I’ve been unable to produce anything useful from them.
Several sites on the Internet offer information on how native peoples used agave plants. In addition to harvesting wild agave, the Hohokam cultivated large fields of the succulents and made use of every part of them. Women spun the fibers into textiles and the strong threads were used to make everything from bowstrings and hunting snares to cradles, shoes and baskets. The leaves, roots, seeds, cores and blooms of the agave were eaten, mostly roasted. The pulp and roots were used medicinally for arthritis, digestive issues and as a disinfectant
Today the heart or pina of an agave plant is cooked and fermented to make mescal or tequila depending on the type of agave and the region in which it was grown. In areas where the plant is farmed for tequila the byproduct of pulp and fibers is being used experimentally as sheep feed and to make fiberboards.
The dog did not lose her sight, but the injury and the vet bill were certainly painful.