Mesquite, taming the wild for healthy food
Mesquite is not just a flavoring for the grill. The desert tree yields yellow pods that in themselves give off a natural sweetness when chewed, somewhat like honeysuckle.
The flour, or meal, gleaned from the pods, provides between 11-17 percent protein, 25 percent fiber, is both low fat and gluten free and has a glycemic index of 25. This means that foods that contain mesquite flour require a longer time to digest than many grains, help regulate blood sugar and stave off hunger.
Studies have shown that Native Americans in the Southwest and Mexico who no longer use mesquite meal as an integral part of their daily diet have become more sedentary, obese and diabetic.
The Dunnery has a gorgeous mesquite tree which bears a ton of pods every fall. We have used the pods as tinder in the chiminea but we never dreamed of using the pods for food.
Along came Ruth and Al Cornell, who we met through Friends of the Forest. The Cornells have been using mesquite flour, as well as acorn flour and other desert food sources for several years. Ruth includes mesquite flour in goodies she prepares for Friends of the Forest hospitality. Recipes of hers are included in the Red Rock Ranger District cookbooks. Al is the worker bee who prepares the flour.
Using Al's directions, we harvested fallen dry pods. Dry pods, which appear August-September, will snap. Try to harvest them before they get rain soaked. After washing the pods in water, we discarded those that appeared insect-infested.
We spread the best pods on newspaper to dry for two days. To obtain the meal, we filled our blender with broken pods. The blender did not pulverize the hard pods, but it did turn the seeds into flour. We sifted out the fine powder and blended the remains two more times.
One pound of pods elicited one cup of meal, which we bagged and froze for later use. As you can surmise, this is a long drawn out process, but exciting at the same time. We feel like part of the sustainability movement! And the tedium of this by-hand process makes us think how precious this flour must have been to the ancients.
Now we have mesquite meal on hand. Mesquite offers a sweet, slightly nutty flavor with a hint of molasses. We use it in smoothies, sprinkle it on foods as a seasoning and use it in breading meat or fish.
Because of its distinct flavor and lack of gluten, cookbooks advise it not be more than 25 percent of the meal used for baking.
In the following recipe of Ruth's, one-half cup of mesquite meal is used along with one cup of all-purpose flour and one-half cup of whole wheat flour.
We hope your will try taming the wild yourself. If you don't want to bother, look for mesquite meal as an ingredient in baking mixes or in the freezer at your grocers.
Many thanks to the Cornells for their expertise. To your Health and Happiness, Jeff and Suzie at The Dunnery
12 medium pancakes
1 Cup all-purpose flour
½ Cup whole wheat flour
½ Cup mesquite flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 Tablespoon sugar or equivalent sweetener
½ teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons canola oil
2 eggs, beaten
1 Cup milk (more for thinner pancakes)
Combine flours, baking powder, sugar and salt. Combine oil, eggs and milt.
Add oil minture to dry ingredients, stirring until just moistened. Cook on hot griddle as you would for regular panckages.