[caption id="attachment_4313" align="aligncenter" width="768"] Pencas before their removal.[/caption] Penca literally means leaf or "fleshy leaf of an agave or cactus." In the Mexican world the meaning is obvious and literal. The leaves of the agave that have to be sheared off before you get to the piña. [caption id="attachment_4314" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Freshly shorn, a piña emerges from its pencas.[/caption] Like all things in the Mexican universe a penca is never just a penca. It doesn't just get cut off the piña, lie inert and decompose. No, once shorn it becomes integrated into a wide web of functions including decomposing in a pile.
Penca is one of those fantastic wandering words in Spanish that has picked up a number of connotations. In the mezcal world it means the leaf of an agave plan. Pencas come up all the time when talking about mezcal