Regardless of native or hybrid, when harvesting mesquite, you will find a wide variety of pod styles. Some are striped, some plain, some fat, some thin, some long, some short. So how do you decide what pods will make the best flour? (By the way, the main use of mesquite harvesting is making flour.) If you read the book Eat Mesquite! A Cookbook by Desert Harvesters they recommend you try a pod or two from each tree to find the sweetest, and I agree!
|Two styles of mesquite pods, both from older native velvet mesquites. The thick ones on the left are easier to bite and only a little less sweet then the thinner ones on the right. This does not necessarily represent a norm.|
Harvesting pods is relatively easy, you can pick up pods that have dropped or pick them off the tree. If you pick off the ground, you want to make sure they are clean of dirt and that it is an area clean of pollutants like cat and dog poop. If you pick off the tree, just lightly grab a tan cluster and if they fall off easily, great! If not, leave them for now. There is much more you can learn from Eat Mesquite! or the Desert Harvesters web page, http://www.desertharvesters.org, but this can get you started.
In the past, I have saved my pods by freezing them to kill the bruchid beetles that burrow into the pods to eat them and waited for a milling time for my area by Desert Harvesters. This year, I decided to process my own flour. Because it is still very hot and dry out, I am able to pick my pods and immediately process them. If they are moist however, they need to be dry or they will gum up any machinery used to grind them down. I started with cleaned, whole pods and placed about a handful into a Ninja Pro to do the first processing. I then poured the flour meal into a flour sifter to obtain the fine flour. The remnants I than processed further by placing in a coffee bean grinder and sifted a second time. The final product that did not grind, I will save and put in my compost pile. If you use a true flour grinder, you will have very little that does not grind into flour.
|Remnant seed hulls I will compost|
Finally, I am saving the flour in the freezer at least for a week to make sure the bugs have been killed Processing this way allows me to manage my pods and flour so I may use flour sooner than waiting for a grinding event and I won’t have to process and store lots of pods for long periods of time. I can hardly wait to make something yummy with the flour!
So after all that, why eat mesquite? Mesquite is not only a great native shade tree that provides wood for barbequing, but is a great resource for food. Mesquite pods are gluten free, typically non allergenic, high in fiber, carbohydrates, and calories (the latter of which is not necessarily good in abundance for a diet, but was great historically for the natives who needed those calories,) is often rich in phyto-nutrients, and has balanced amino acids. It is also very tasty! If you have mesquites around, you can harvest your own pods to make flour (easier than growing wheat on a small scale) and start your baking wonders.