Thursday, January 08, 2015


A subtle yet scary approach to harvesting agave buds                                 Mans
My friend Glenn Thomas s’ eyes light up when he talks about foraging, hunting, fishing, growing produce, cooking… Come to think of it, his eyes light up when he talks about everything. He also knows an awful lot about an awful lot. Over the past few years he has kindly given me multiple of jars of pickled Agave buds. They are tangy and crunchy like gherkins, but have a distinct yet subtle flavor. I simply had to get my hands on some of these sensational morsels.

The blue/grey leaves of the Agave Americana; the one you want.                                                                                    Glenn
This wonder plant gives us mezcal, tequila, agave syrup (diabetic friendly), sisal, stock fodder, and of course the delicious buds. I have a fond memory of a mule driver in the Peruvian Andes snapping off the dry tip of a leaf to use as a sowing needle.

The perfect time to harvest                                                                                   UHG
The Agave Americana was brought to the South Africa by the British settlers in 1820 and has since flourished in the Karoo. Glenn s’ are from his family farm in the region, but there are plenty about locally. Once I knew what to look for I couldn’t help noticing them stabbing out from nearly every nook in our city (Cape Town). All I had to do was wait for the right time to harvest. When they start to poke up a ‘telephone-pole-like-mast’, you know that pickling time is just around the corner. Nourishment is stored in their leaves for the effort required to flower. Once having flowered, the plant dies, yet is easily propagated by offsets from the base of the stem. What I’m really saying is, the buds are in need of rescuing and my friends and I are selflessly willing to oblige.

One plant will give you about 150 medium jars of deliciousness.                                                                                       UHG
Stef with plenty still to do                                                                                                                                                            UHG
Plucking fennel flowers for a complete foraged pickle                                                                                                       UHG

It does however feel a little ‘in your face’ to cause an 8m pole to come crashing down in a quiet neighborhood. So you can either gingerly climb the pole and snip off clusters of buds or boldly hack down the entire mast (which in time nature will do itself). If an official looking someone asks what you are doing, all you need do is look at them smugly, as if they wouldn’t understand and mutter, ‘research’; They are bound to leave you to it…

Happiness is a bunch of buds                                                                         Mans      

Agave and fennel flower at the same time; made for each other.     UHG

A bit like a swamp, only much tastier                                                          UHG

They'll be perfect in a couple of months                                                       UHG


  1. Awesome. My first visit to your blog and I love it. Not sure who I would get to do my harvesting, but certainly going to send out applications.

  2. could you please tell us your recipe..