With the heat and winds of these few days before the Solstice in Tucson, native and introduced mesquite pods are ripening fast and blowing off the trees. NOW is the time for the first mesquite harvest! Tia Marta here, encouraging all loca-vores and wild-harvesters to head out in the “coolth” of early morning to collect nutritious mesquite pods, following the traditions of the Desert People!
It is perfect timing to prep for a fun, educational–and productive–event coming up this next weekend at Mission Garden in Tucson: MESQUITE MILLING MANIA! –your chance to mill your harvested pods into wonderful flour for baking and cooking for the rest of the year. Make plans for this Saturday, June 26, 2021.
You can bring the whole family to this enjoyable outdoor event. While your pods are being milled you can take in the talks which begin at 8am. There will be mesquite recipe demonstrations at 9am by UA’s Garden Kitchen cooks, a hands-on ethnobotany presentation at 10am with Tia Marta, and a mesquite selection and propagation workshop for the future at 11am with the Desert Museum’s expert Jesus Garcia. This event is sponsored in part by an exciting project initiated at the UA Desert Lab, Tumamoc Hill, to explore resilient desert foods that might sustain us with climate change.
Kids and adults can try their hand at grinding Kui Wihog in a mortar and pestle then sifting it to separate out the flour. Actually grinding the pods ourselves can really make us appreciate the labor necessary to make a meal before hammermills or Vita-Mixes were invented!
At Mesquite Milling Mania there will be 3 different hammermills running to mill your mesquite pod harvest. If you have never harvested before, check out the detailed directions on the Desert Harvesters site. It is important to harvest directly from the tree–NOT from the ground–and only harvest the most brittle pods, to avoid contamination by fungi and aflatoxin. There will be an inspection table to inspect your cleaned beans before milling. A fee of $2 per gallon of pods, $10 for a full 5-gallon bucket, will be charged for milling to flour. Be sure to bring a ziplock or tupperware to carry home your newly-ground mesquite flour.
When you have your own mesquite flour, many recipes and cookbooks will inspire your cookery! This savorthesouthwest site has plenty of great instructions. Food author Carolyn Niethammer’s book Cooking the Wild Southwest is rich with ideas, and Desert Harvesters’ book Eat Mesquite and More is a must. Another great source of mesquite recipes in From I’itoi’s Garden published by TOCA Tohono O’odham Community Action.
Here’s a fast, sweet, delicious traditional drink you can make with a tablespoon of your mesquite flour. I learned this from an amazing Tohono O’odham Elder, admired mentor and friend Frances Manuel-bad:
Traditional Tohono O’odham MESQUITE PINOLE RECIPE:
For one glass of a refreshing summer drink…. in an 8oz. glass of cold water, or cold milk (or almond milk), stir in one tablespoon of mesquite meal (mesquite flour). You can add a tablespoon of pilkan cu’i (roasted white Sonora wheat flour). You can sweeten it with agave nectar if desired. Stir rapidly and enjoy before it settles!
See you at the Mesquite Milling Mania this Saturday– Happy harvesting!