Posts Tagged With: Mesquite pods

Mesquite: Not flour, broth!

This gorgeous photo shows the lifecycle of a mesquite pod. It was taken by talented photographer Jill Lorenzini whose skill at photographing wild plants never ceases to make me go “ooooh!”

This is the time of year to gather mesquite pods and look for places with hammermills that can grind them into flour or meal to use for baking. Everything is different this year and it may be some time before we can gather for a grinding event. But you can still make delicious treats with your mesquite pods by boiling them. Mesquite is one of Mother Nature’s sweetest offerings and can often replace the need for additional sugar.

It’s Carolyn today. I started playing with mesquite pods many years before Desert Harvesters began offering us the option of having our pods ground into lovely fine meal in their hammermill. I tried everything: blender, Cuisinart, Molina grain mill. Nothing worked well. I understand that a Vitamix does a decent job, but I didn’t have one. I developed a deep appreciation for those Native women who pounded pods in the rock mortar.

Desert Harvesters grinding mesquite pods in June 2018 using the hammermill.  This year we’re avoiding gatherings like this so we need to find another way to use our mesquite pods.

Without our friends at Desert Harvesters this year helping us to have beautiful fine mesquite meal at this time (maybe later, they say, stay tuned), I’m digging back into my book Cooking the Wild Southwest, to share some recipes for mesquite broth.  Here’s the basic: Take about 4 cups of broken mesquite pods and cover with about 2 quarts of water.

Start with four cups of broken mesquite pods.

Bring to a boil, cover the pot, turn down the heat, and simmer for about an hour. Cool. Next, put your hands into the broth and wring and tear the the pods in the broth, stirring and mashing the sweet pith into the liquid. This is a great place to get the kids or grandkids involved. They love the messiness of it. The object is to get as much of the pith (technically, the mesocarp) into the broth as possible. Strain the liquid through a fine wire-mesh trainer and discard the seeds and fiber. Simmer the liquid uncovered until reduced to three cups.

This is what your unstrained broth will look like.

Now we’re ready to make something delicious. Let’s start with something quick, a drink I call the Gila Monster. It’s a perfect beverage for a Sunday brunch or even dessert. It looks especially inviting in clear glass mugs.

Combine mesquite broth with cold coffee and whipped cream for a delicious brunch treat.

Gila Monster

(These proportions are a basic recipe. You can adjust to your taste. If you are including kids, use just a few tablespoons of coffee and go with mainly milk. )

Makes 6 servings.

1 1/2 cups cold coffee (use decaf for after-dinner)

2 1/2 cups cold Mesquite Broth

1/2 cup cold milk of your choice

1/2 cup coffee liqueur (optional)

Whipped cream

Cinnamon powder

Combine all ingredients in a pitcher or large bowl. Pour into glasses or cups. Top with whipped cream and a dusting of cinnamon powder.

What are some other uses for your broth? Substitute for honey in a honey-mustard salad dressing. Instead of using brown sugar on baked sweet potatoes, drizzle with some mesquite broth. Thicken your broth with cornstarch and use on pancakes. You get the idea. If you want a little more direction, like actual recipes, get a copy of Cooking the Wild Southwest and I’ll guide you step by step through recipes for mesquite broth and mesquite meal. You’ll find even more recipes in the book Desert Harvesters put together Eat Mesquite and More: A Cookbook for Sonoran Desert Foods and Living.  In addition to recipes for mesquite, it covers lots of other desert plants as well.

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If you are interested in edible wild plants of the Southwest and Southwest food, check out my books Cooking the Wild Southwest, Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants, The New Southwest Cookbook, a compilation of recipes from the Southwest’s top chefs, and The Prickly Pear Cookbook, with great recipes for both pads and fruits. And remember Eat Mesquite and More: A Cookbook for Sonoran Desert Foods. In September, I’ll have a new title: A Desert Feast: Celebrating Tucson’s Culinary Heritage. There is more information about my books at www.cniethammer.com.

Buy copies on line or order from your favorite local bookstore. They will love you for it.

 

 

Categories: Cooking, Mesquite, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Desert Harvesters June Events

010Though newcomers to the Sonoran Desert sometimes miss the abundant fruits, berries, mushrooms, and greens of wetter forests, one Tucson organization wants you to know the desert is full of food: You just have to know where to look for it. Desert Harvesters is a nonprofit grassroots group that promotes the harvest of native, wild, and cultivated desert foods and also advocates for the planting of indigenous, food-bearing shade trees (such as the Velvet mesquite) and understory plantings within rainwater harvesting “gardens” in the landscapes where we live, work, and play. Funds raised at these events support the group’s educational efforts in the community, including demonstrations, publications, and tasting events.

The group announces its summer season of harvesting workshops and activities, which aim to help the public learn how to plant, harvest, process, and prepare wild, native, and local food items, including mesquite pods, ironwood & palo verde seeds, and saguaro fruit. Currently the group is raising funds to support the publication of a revised and expanded version of its 2010 cookbook Eat Mesquite! This new cookbook will include recipes for mesquite and other desert foods, as well as information about how to grow, harvest, and prepare native and local foods. Desert Harvesters is also seeking volunteers to help with (and learn from) these and other events.

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June 18 & 19, 2016

Workshops on Mesquite Pod Tasting, Inspection, and Ticketing and Hammermill Operation for those who want to become Desert Harvesters volunteers or staff, or others wishing to expand their mesquite-related skill sets. Visit http://www.DesertHarvesters.org or email volunteer@DesertHarvesters.org to learn more.

 

June 23, 2016

DESERT HARVESTERS’ 14th ANNUAL MESQUITE MILLING & WILD FOODS & DRINKS FIESTA Santa Cruz River Farmers’ Market at Mercado San Agustín, 100 S Avenida del Convento, Tucson

Bring your clean & sorted mesquite pods to be milled with our hammermill (fee applies) and taste an array of wild foods.

Harvesters can have their milled mesquite flour tested for aflatoxins (see below) at our 14th Annual Mesquite Milling on June 23, 2016, in Tucson. The cost per test will be a special subsidized fee of only $5.

We will also be serving craft beers (Smoked Mesquite Apple beer as well as a beer finished with creosote flowers) from Iron John Brewing Co. with proceeds going to Desert Harvesters.

 

June 24, 2016

Desert Harvesters’ Happy Hour at Tap & Bottle

403 N 6th Ave #135, Tucson

5–8 pm

Enjoy great regional brews, some infused with locally sourced native wild ingredients. A percentage of all happy-hour sales goes to Desert Harvesters! A local food truck will also be on site with delicious offerings including native wild ingredients.

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BE IN SYNC WITH THE SONORAN DESERT’S NATURAL PATTERNS

To encourage harvesting before the monsoons, and to be more in sync with the Sonoran Desert ecology’s natural patterns, Desert Harvesters has shifted its annual harvesting and milling trainings, along with its mesquite millings and fiesta, to the month of June—BEFORE the summer rains. This is also when our native bean trees (mesquite, desert ironwood, palo verde) are ready to harvest (they produce before the rains so their seed is on the ground ready to germinate when the rains arrive). Regularly check our Calendar of Events for more such event info.

 

 

FOOD SAFETY: Aflatoxin and how to avoid it

Aflatoxin is a toxic natural compound produced by certain molds; it can cause liver damage and cancer. Aflatoxin is found in many common foods, but only in small quantities is considered safe (U.S. ≤ 20 parts per billion (ppb), Europe ≤ 2 ppb). We at Desert Harvesters are specifically concerned with the invisible mold (Aspergillus flavus) that can produce aflatoxin B1 on mesquite pods, as well as on other food crops (legumes, corn, etc) that have been exposed to moisture.

HARVEST MESQUITE PODS BEFORE THE RAINS (at higher elevations, harvesting in dry autumn weather may be an option)

Desert Harvesters is now recommending that, as much as possible, harvesters collect mesquite pods BEFORE the monsoon rains. (This can be more difficult at higher altitudes due to later ripening. In these areas the best practice may be to only harvest in dry autumn weather.) The reason for pre-rain/dry-season harvesting is to reduce the pods’ exposure to moisture, and thus the risk of the development of an invisible mold (Aspergillus flavus) and the aflatoxin it can produce. Aflatoxin poisoning can have serious health consequences over the long term, so we want to harvest in a SAFE manner. To further avoid moisture issues with the pods we recommend you do NOT rinse or wash pods.

In the small number of batches of mesquite flour we have tested thus far…ALL mesquite pods we tested which were harvested BEFORE the rains have tested SAFE.

In other words, NO mesquite pods harvested BEFORE the rains had results with unsafe levels of aflatoxin. The U.S.-designated safe limit of aflatoxin is 20 parts per billion (ppb), so safe test results will be 20 or fewer ppb.

However, all test batches of mesquite pods that DID have results with unsafe levels of aflatoxin were harvested AFTER the onset of the rains. Again, in the U.S., safe aflatoxin levels of 20 or fewer parts per billion (ppb) are considered safe. However, many other batches harvested AFTER the onset of the rains tested SAFE.

 

We hope to continue to share more studies and best harvesting practices.

 

What to do with mesquite flour?

Sonoran Cookies

Here’s a truly classic recipe from the first EAT Mesquite! Cookbook.We’ve made hundreds of these cookies. The author of the original recipe is unknown. The ones in the photo below are topped with mesquite toffee.

mesq cookies toffee

.25 lb (one stick) butter

1 cup sugar (can be reduced to .75 cup sugar, plus .25 cup mesquite)

1 egg

2 teaspoon vanilla (or local lemon extract)

2 cup corn tortilla meal (or whole wheat flour)

1 cup mesquite meal

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

.5 cup pecans, finely chopped (optional)

Cream softened butter.  Mix in sugar, egg and extract.  Sift dry ingredients and add to the first mixture.  Add nuts (optional) and beat until smooth.  Roll dough into 2 inch balls and press onto ungreased cookie sheet.  Or, roll dough into thin logs, wrap in waxed paper, and refrigerate or freeze.  Slice cold logs into rounds and place on cookie sheet.  (Doubled cookie sheets or Airbake prevent bottoms from browning too fast.)  Place in preheated 375 F oven and bake 12 minutes or until golden.  Cool on racks until crisp, or eat warm and soft.  Makes up to 200 tiny (.75 inch) cookies.

 

 

Categories: Cooking, Edible Landscape Plant, Gardening, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Oh Yum! Tasty Mesquite Meal Enhances Pie Crust and Waffles

Bodie Robins offers a selection of delicious gluten-free baked goods at farmers markets in Tucson and Sierra Vista.

Bodie Robins offers a selection of delicious gluten-free baked goods at farmers markets in Tucson and Sierra Vista.

For thousands of years, mesquite pods were the primary food of people who lived on the Sonoran Desert. It’s Carolyn here today recalling that when I first started researching and experimenting with mesquite in 1972, hardly anybody was eating this sweet nutritious food. Although a few Tohono O’odham kept up with the old ways, it was on the verge of being forgotten.

Until recently,  it wasn’t easy to process mesquite pods. Early Native women made mesquite meal by pounding the pods in bedrock mortars. By the 1970s it hadn’t gotten much easier. But fortunately for all of us someone (I recall it was at the Desert Museum) figured that the pods could be crushed and sifted by a hammermill, a common piece of farm equipment. After some years, Desert Harvesters took up the challenge and offered to grind the pods of all comers for a modest fee. Getting a beautiful, smooth tasty flour was now easy. And the world of mesquite baking opened up.

Mesquite crust adds extra deliciousness to Big Skye's fruit pies.

Mesquite crust adds extra deliciousness to Big Skye’s sweet potato and fruit pies.

Bodie Robins of Big Skye Bakers is one of the folks who have brought mesquite baking into the twenty-first century selling mesquite baked goods at farmers’ markets in Tucson and Sierra Vista.

Bodie, an architectural designer, began baking with mesquite as therapy in 2008 when construction took a dive with the recession. His first experiment produced some dog biscuits that he shared with his neighbors. He decided there might be a future in mesquite baking when his neighbors admitted they were eating the dog biscuits themselves. With salsa!

Bodie took his product to a farmers’ market. But it turns out not enough people were willing to pay for high-end mesquite dog biscuits (many dogs are willing to just chew the pods, unbaked), so he began to experiment with other baked goods, trying various combinations of flours until he produced a version he liked.

Today he sells pies with mesquite crust, cookies, and cupcakes. Many of his customers are attracted by the gluten-free nature of Bodie’s mesquite pie crust. One very grateful middle-aged customer was thrilled to find a pie crust he could eat and told Bodie he hadn’t been able to eat pie since he was 15 years old.

Bodie entices his customers with a little table setting at his farmers market booth. Personally, I'm ready to dig right in.

Bodie entices his customers with a little table setting at his farmers market booth. Personally, I’m ready to dig right in.

A perfect loaf of gluten-free bread eluded Bodie until recently when extensive experimenting has finally led to a mixture of mesquite meal, brown rice flour, tapioca and sweet potato flour that turns out a delicious loaf.

“My customers are particular about the foods they buy and eat,” he says .  “They like to learn about mesquite. There’s a romance to it – an arts and crafts movement about food. I get everything from savvy young college kids to the elderly.”

Bodie gathers the mesquite pods he uses himself and has them ground at the Baja Arizona mill at the Sierra Vista farmers’ market. He goes through up to 200 pounds a year and if he runs out, he can grind a few pounds in his Vitamix. He produces his goods in his home kitchen under the home baker cottage industry law.

You can find Bodie and his Big Skye specialty baked goods at the Rillito Farmers’ Market in Tucson on Sunday mornings from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and at the Sierra Vista Farmers’ Market on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m

Here’s a delicious recipe for waffles that Bodie developed. This recipe includes wheat flour, but if you are gluten sensitive, experiment with some other flours to find a mixture that works for you.

Mesquite waffles make a delicious breakfast or lunch.

Mesquite-Pecan waffles make a delicious breakfast or lunch.

Cinnamon-Pecan Mesquite Waffles

Ingredients

2 eggs separated

2 1/2 cups milk

¼ cup olive oil

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup whole-wheat flour

½ cup mesquite meal

1 cup finely chopped pecans

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

Directions

  1. Lightly oil and pre heat waffle iron.
  2. Separate eggs reserving the whites in a bowl and set aside. In another bowl mix egg yolks, milk and oil.
  3. Mix all dry ingredients together
  4. Add liquids to dry ingredients. Gently mix until smooth.
  5. Beat the egg whites until stiff.
  6. Fold in the egg whites to the waffle mix.
  7. Place 1/2 cup of batter onto hot waffle iron. Close lid. Bake until golden Repeat with remaining batter.

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Want more mesquite recipies? Check out my cookbook Cooking the Wild Southwest, Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants. You can buy it at the Native Seeds/SEARCH Store at 3061 North Campbell Avenue, in Tucson, or order it off the NSS website or from Barnes&Noble. If you need mesquite flour, buy it from Martha Burgess’s Flor de Mayo stand at the St. Phillip’s Farmers’ Market in Tucson on Sundays or order it here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Cooking, Sonoran Native, Southwest Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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