Driving down the street in June, you have probably seen the white powder spread under the mesquite trees…that is mesquite flour, and did you know it is one of the sweetest treats in the desert? We look at is as a nuisance when in reality is it a nutritious, delicious desert treat. You just have to know what to do with them!
So, here is your Mesquite 101 Class. Start by locating a mesquite tree with pods on the branches (NEVER pick pods off the ground), they are typically ready for harvest in June and July. Harvest one pod from the tree and break it in half, nibbling on the end, being wary not to take a big bite as the mesquite seeds are very hard. If it makes you cringe, move on to the next tree. If, however, it tastes like something you would like to eat, then harvest away.
The next step is to prepare the beans for milling. They need to be dried to remove any moisture, so they don’t gum up the mill. In the past, I have left them in the front seat of the car in June — this does a pretty good job. I have also cooked them at 200 degrees in the oven for a couple of hours, put them in my dehydrator overnight on the highest setting, and even baked them in my solar oven for a few hours. Any of these methods can work just fine as long as you make sure to watch so they don’t burn.
Finally, you want to mill them to flour consistency. There are small mills that you can purchase to do this job if you want to mill them at home. Otherwise, you can bring them to the GrowPHX community millings that happen in late June and in the fall. GrowPHX purchased a food grade hammermill a few years ago and they hold periodic community millings where you pay a flat rate per pound to have your beans milled. (www.growphx.org)
There are many things for us to eat around our neighborhoods if we just pay attention. Mesquite beans are highly nutritious, sweet and abundant. Our job is to pay attention and do a little work before they fall to the ground for a delectable desert delicacy!
Greg Peterson is a green living and sustainability innovator who is well known regionally. He has his master’s degree in Urban and Environmental Planning from Arizona State University. Greg is the owner of the Urban Farm (www.urbanfarm.org), a real-world environmental showcase home in the heart of Phoenix. The Urban Farm features an entirely edible landscape, including over 75 fruit trees, rainwater and greywater harvesting, three solar applications, and extensive use of reclaimed and recycled building materials. The site is opened periodically throughout the year to the public and offers classes, lectures and tours.