Most people are familiar with the use of mesquite firewood for barbecuing, but did you know the tree has edible pods, too? Flour made from the ground beans is becoming more readily available, and if you live in the Southwest, where mesquite trees grow, you can harvest your own beans now or later this year.
Although mesquite beans and flour were an important food for many Native American tribes, they had been been largely forgotten since the late 19th century. Now, more people are rediscovering and enjoying mesquite's sweet, smoky flavor.
The long seed pods may be harvested when green (some varieties are also streaked with red) and cooked into a sweet syrup for pancakes, while the dry, tan-colored pods (listen for a rattle when shaken) may be ground into a delicious, gluten-free flour. Use this in bread, cookies, and other baked goods, or as a spice for meat or vegetables. For mesquite bean harvesting directions and recipes, see Desert Tropicals and DesertUSA. Also be sure to check out 101 Cookbooks' recipe for Mesquite Chocolate Chip Cookies.
Emily Ho is a writer, recipe developer, and educator. She lives in Los Angeles, where she teaches classes on food preservation, wild food, and herbalism. Emily is a Master Food Preserver and founder of LA Food Swap and the international Food Swap Network.
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