We interrupt this broadcast of angst-ridden quarter life crisis rants to bring you…a recipe! Finally. I told you I’d get around to it and this one is a real treat.
I have deep roots in Texas. Aside from a few stints abroad it is the only place I’ve ever lived. I love this damn state even though it infuriates me with all it’s crazy talk about pro-life this and pro-gun that. My mama’s family has been in South Texas for nearly 500 years, since the time it was known as New Spain. On my dad’s side, according to family legend, one of the oldest corpses in the El Paso cemetery is my great-great-great (great?) grandmother who was a Tigua Indian. Back then the border was more of a suggestion than an actuality. On both sides of my family tree borders have shifted, names have changed, but the people remain. Sometimes I wonder if I’d still remember my name if I couldn’t go back to revel in the exploding sunsets and barren rocky mountains of West Texas.
Know what else has deep roots here? Mesquite! Mesquite is another one of those misunderstood invasive plants that just isn’t given the credit it deserves. It’s such an interesting looking tree. The juxtaposition of its crooked, spiny branches and elegant, feathery leaves with its fuzzy yellow flowers in the spring and fat-sweet pods in the summer is simply lovely. Cattle ranchers are always complaining about it because it pricks their cows and depletes the water table. Know what else depletes (and contaminates) water? Cattle ranching! You know why there is so much mesquite in Texas? Cattle ranching! It is said that the tree became so common because cows would eat the pods on cattle drives and it spread through their droppings. Since these cattle also overgraze native grasses, nitrogen fixing mesquite jumps in to fill the empty space and does it all while attracting all sorts of wildlife and bees. Actually, there is quite a lot of potential use for these trees and since they are so abundant and are so hard to eradicate it could potentially be a sustainable cash crop.
So, when I heard you could make flour out of its pods I was determined to try it out. The only problem is you need a pretty powerful blender (Vitamix) to do it because the dried pods are pretty tough. When summer came I lamented my lack of Vitamix every time I passed a tree full of juicy pods. Then I went back to West Texas for a visit excited that my parents had the piece of equipment that I so desperately needed. I told my dad about my plans and he seemed intrigued. It was nice to be home, especially since it had been raining so much and the desert seemed more alive than it had in ages. The next morning I went to the kitchen for a cup of coffee and there was a note for me sitting on the kitchen counter that said something along the lines of, “I believe these are mesquite pods from the tree in the front lawn. Love, Botanist Bob” and next to the note was four or five thick-dried out mesquite pods. I had completely forgotten we had a tree in our front lawn! It seemed like fate and I immediately went outside to harvest as many dried pods as possible. With those and some from a friend’s yard I had everything I needed to make this delicious, gluten-free hypoglycemic flour.
Here is what you will need:
Wine or a buddy (Trust me)
Ted Talk or TV show (Seriously, you are going to be doing this for awhile)
Sifter or mesh sieve
- Pour yourself a glass of wine or grab a buddy to do this with. I suppose this step could be considered optional, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
- Pick a Ted Talk or TV show that you can watch in between blending and while sifting. I personally like Ted Talks because well…there is just so much to learn.
- Make sure the pods are completely dry. Since I was in the desert I just left them out in the sun all day. If you are in a wetter climate you could use a dehydrator or put them in the oven on a low setting (150 degrees Fahrenheit). They should break easily and not be green at all.
- Break the pods up in pieces by hand and place in blender and blend on high for a few seconds.
- This will produce flour that is rather chunky and still contains pieces of whole pod and seed.
- That means you will have to use a sifter or a mesh sieve to get finer flour.
- Continue to re-blend the pod and seed pieces until all is milled. Some of the pieces will resist so you can either compost that or make “mesquite milk”. I composted because I was short on time, but someday I will definitely try to make milk. I imagine it is just like making almond milk.
- Taste! It is divine and your kitchen will smell sweet and homey. I think it tastes a bit like gingerbread.
- Store. I put mine in an old (washed) coffee can. It should keep for six months.
Since my approach to baking is to not bake I am afraid I don’t have any recipes to share. I read you could make pancakes, cookies and raw desserts out of it, but honestly I’ve just been throwing it in to things in place of sugar. I made a green smoothie with coconut milk, avocado, spinach and berries and instead of honey I added mesquite flour. It was really nice and quite sweet and I noticed I was full for a good six hours, though that could have been due to the high amount of fat in the smoothie. I am super thrilled with this experiment and intend to do it every year. Did you know the mesquite flour in Whole Foods comes all the way from Peru? Suckers.