One of the free trees available through the Shade Tree Program is the Mesquite Tree, and July to September is the season to harvest the pods. But how do you harvest the pods and how can you use them?
Indigenous American Indians relied heavily on Mesquite pods as a food source and would grind them into flour or use it as a sweetener. To see if a pod is ready, snap it and it should easily break in half. Taste it to see if the pods are sweet and if so, they are ready for harvest.
Place a sheet or a tarp underneath the tree and gently tap/shake the limbs for the pods to fall. Do not pick-up pods that have already fallen on the ground, as they can be contaminated with mold and animal feces. Also, discard any pods with black mold.
Next, in a five gallon bucket mix one tablespoon bleach with five gallons of water. Fill another bucket with clean water. Dunk the pods into the bleach-water and swish them around. Then, swish the pods in the clean just-water bucket and set the pods somewhere to thoroughly dry, preferably on a screen in a shaded area as direct sunlight degrades nutrients and vitamins.
Once the pods are thoroughly dry, store then in a clean, dry container such as a large mason jar or cloth bag. To make mesquite flour, first grind the pods in a coffee grinder or high-powered blender. Then using a fine-mesh sieve, filter out any remaining pieces and seeds. (Or, VPA holds an annual mesquite milling event in the fall so you can always hold on to your pods until then. We will give more details about that as the time nears.) Now, what do you do with the mesquite flour?
Mesquite flour tortillas, pancakes, and roasted nuts are some of the easiest and tastiest ways to start experimenting with this highly nutritious Arizona-native resource. Mesquite flour is rich in protein and micronutrients like calcium, iron, potassium, and zinc and it’s gluten-free! It’s also a low-glycemic food because of its high soluble fiber content (which means it digests slowly so it doesn’t rapidly increase blood sugar levels), so it’s a good option for diabetics!
Below is a recipe for mesquite flour tortillas and links to recipes for mesquite flour pancakes and mesquite roasted pecans. You will also find links for more information on mesquite flour and where to buy it.
Ever worked with mesquite flour? Let us know about your own experiments!
Mesquite Flour Tortillas *
1½ cups whole wheat flour (or try a gluten-free flour blend)
½ cup mesquite flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons olive oil (or coconut oil)
¾ cup water (or diary/nut milk of choice)
butter or coconut oil for cooking
1. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the whole wheat (or gluten-free) flour, mesquite flour, and salt.
2. Next, mix in the olive oil and then, gradually, mix in the water (or milk).
3. Knead the dough for about three minutes. It should come together into a big ball. Cover the bowl and let it sit for thirty minutes.
4. Separate the big ball into ten smaller balls and cover and let sit for another thirty minutes.
5. Roll out the balls to 1/8″ thick circle and then heat a skillet on medium-low heat (a cast iron skillet works well here).
7. Add a pat of butter or 1 tsp of coconut oil to the skillet and spread it around.
8. Cook a pancake until it is browned on both sides.
9. Repeat steps 7-8 for each pancake. You can keep the pancakes warm in an oven or toaster oven set to 200 degrees while you are cooking all of them.
* Original recipe created by the Edible Desert Committee; adaptions by Nutritionist Danielle Corral.
(Mesquite Flour Pancakes) http://livesuperfoods.com/news/mesquite-pancakes-recipe
(Mesquite Roasted Pecans) http://www.healthyeah.co.nz/blog/mesquite-the-caramel-superfood-salty-caramel-pecans
(More information of harvesting and storing pods) http://frugallysustainable.com/2012/06/foraging-how-to-make-your-own-gluten-free-mesquite-pod-flour/
(Where to Buy Mesquite Flour) http://www.mesquiteflour.com/
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